(Reuters) - Just when the Los Angeles Lakers thought their injury problems could not worsen, they were preparing to face the Utah Jazz with a player who was competing in the NBA Development League only two weeks ago.
Eight players have so far missed games due to injury during a nightmare 2013-14 season for the Lakers and their revolving door of point guards has turned out a sixth starter in that position with Kendall Marshall suiting up against the Jazz on Friday.
Marshall, 22, was acquired by the D-League’s Delaware 87ers on Dec 3 before being signed up by the Lakers just 17 days later as their casualty list deepened.
“Stuff is happening pretty fast,” Marshall, who is averaging 5.3 points and 2.5 assists in four games as a bench player for Los Angeles, told reporters after learning he would start against the Jazz.
“It’s unfortunate with some of the injuries that we’re having, but it’s up to us collectively as a team to kind of figure it out. I just have to take advantage of it and try to help the team.”
Marshall, the 13th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 2012 draft, becomes the Lakers point guard following a rash of injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry.
Nash has nerve damage in his back, Blake a torn ligament in his right elbow, Bryant and Henry have knee injuries and Farmar a torn hamstring.
The almost unbelievable casualty rate has raised suspicions of a possible jinx, prompting shooting guard Jody Meeks to avoid using the words ‘point guard’.
“It seems like they (the point guards) always get hurt, so I say ‘decision-maker’ instead,” smiled Meeks, who is expected to be Marshall’s backup.
“But no matter who it is or what it’s called, the Lakers need hustle and effort there, and in every other position. The one thing we can control is our effort, and we have to do that.”
The (13-19) Lakers will be bidding to snap a six-game losing streak when they host the Jazz and their coach Mike D‘Antoni has been hammering home the need for a fighting spirit.
”We’re going to do everything we can to win every game and every second,“ said D‘Antoni. ”That’s our mindset and that’s what it has to be.
“It’s just hard to sustain it (effort) sometimes because your confidence is shaken, you don’t have the swagger we had. You can’t control other things like injuries. Our job is to win. We’re not doing that right now and it needs to start.”
Spanish forward Pau Gasol, who has missed three games recently because of an upper respiratory infection, agreed that a collective Lakers surge was urgently required with everything “far from ideal right now”.
Gasol said: ”It takes a big group effort, really coming in with a special and positive mindset, pulling each other out and helping each other out. Make it hard on the opponents because right now the opponents, they see blood.
”They see a team struggling and they say, ‘Let’s beat them again, bury them deeper.’ We’ve just got to make sure we let teams know it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
“We still have five guys out there on the floor playing basketball. If we play together, we play with intensity and energy, we can make things happen and have good games.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry