On Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers fell 125-109 to the San Antonio Spurs, but Xavier Henry led the Los Angeles Lakers with 24 points. For Henry, he’s taken a few detours this season to being back on the court and playing with his style of attacking flair.
Henry’s 19 points on 14 shots helped keep the Lakers within one point at the halftime intermission. Eventually, the Spurs would pull away, but Henry was a definite bright spot for the Lakers.
“He played a good game,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said about Henry after the loss. “He missed a few shots, but at the end of the night, he had a nice game.”
For the first time in nearly three months, Henry looked like the player that started the season by scoring 22 points off the bench in a memorable win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Henry missed nearly three months with a bone bruise and abnormality of the lateral meniscus in his right knee. Originally, the athletic guard was expected to be out only 7-10 days. Ultimately, he missed six weeks.
In only his eighth game back, Henry exploded to the basket and resembled the attack-minded player that existed before the injury. On the night, Henry played 32 minutes, the most he’s contributed since returning, and scored 24 points. Tony Parker was the only player to score more, 25.
“Xavier is battling through a lot of stuff. He could call it quits. He has a little bit of a problem here and there, but he’s playing with the pain, and he wants to play. And it’s up to him,” D’Antoni continued. “He’s trying to do it, and he looked good tonight.”
When Henry was asked about the pain in his knee and his coach’s comments, he tried to avoid the topic. He did not want people feeling sorry for him.
“There are a lot of things that I do that cause the pain, but I got 15 games left. I’m not going to sulk about it. I’m going to battle through and finish the season,” Henry said after Wednesday’s loss. “Some days, my knee feels great. Some days, my knee feels bad. I’m just like, ‘man, I got to make it through the day.’”
Henry becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and he is playing for a job this season. Asked if his impending free agency was driving him to play through the pain, the guard said that was not his motivation.
“I don’t think it’s really my free agency pushing me at all,” Henry responded. “I think it’s just wanting to be here for my guys. They fight hard. I fight hard.”
As his coach implied, he could quit and play his way onto a roster next season. After all, Henry entered training camp on a non-guaranteed contract and played his way onto the Lakers team. When healthy, he displayed enough ability to make it on most NBA rosters.
“I don’t want to quit,” Henry spoke up. “I don’t want to quit on my guys. If I know I can go out and help the team, I know I can still make a difference in this game, no matter what it is. I’m still quick enough. I can still explode enough to get to the basket.”
Still, he admitted that the pain in knee was constant. When asked how he would rate the pain or describe which movements hurt, Henry shied away. He was not looking for sympathy or to talk about the injury because that is not what Henry is about.
“I’m just going to fight through it,” Henry said. “I’m not going to get another shot or drain my knee anymore. I’m going to finish the season strong.”
Still, the pain was present. How did he deal with the pain in the middle of the game?
“I just try to block (the pain) out. And if I can’t block it out, then, I compensate with my other leg. I try to use my other leg more, and that’s the only thing I can do,” Henry pretended like sitting out was no longer an option. “I’m not going to be a guy like ‘it hurts a little bit’ ‘I can’t do it.’ I got to fight through it.”
A reporter arrived late to the scene and told Henry that he finally looked like he had prior to the injury. He asked if Henry’s knee felt like it did back in November and December.
“No, I don’t feel like I felt before in my knee,” Henry stated without hesitation.
Henry said he did not believe he would be 100 percent before the season was up. However, he also did not believe he would cause a tear by playing though the pain. Ultimately, he was deciding to strap it up when he could easily sit out the last part of a lost season.
Henry, though, is not that guy. He is intent on helping his teammates and finishing the season strong. He deflected a few more questions about his knee before explaining that the injury affects him on nearly every movement in the game.
Ever the optimist, though, Henry said, “It’ll make me better at the end. I’m going to keep pushing.”