But when Shannon Brown has been putting them in lately, the pain of slamming his right thumb, which is suffering from a bone bruise and a torn ligament, against the metal rim almost brings the Lakers guard to sobs.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I’ve definitely dunked and had to put a smile on my face to stop from tearing up.”
He sustained that injury while blocking the shot of Indiana’s Dahntay Jones on March 2. Since then, that pain has lingered and his production has dipped.
In the Lakers’ 106-100 win over Sacramento Tuesday at Staples Center, both shot up. Brown started in the place of Kobe Bryant, who is out nursing knee, finger and ankle injuries, and played his best game in nearly two months with 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor in a team-high 41 minutes.
It was his best offensive output since scoring 27 points against Golden State on February 16, and Brown credited the difference Tuesday to starting: “When you start, you get to set the tone.”
He also said he wanted to use the game to get into a rhythm that would be consistent throughout the playoffs, which begin this weekend against Oklahoma City.
“My thumb, it is what it is,” he said. “I can’t think about it no more.”
Blocking out the pain, such as when the high-flying guard dunks, has been a big part of his dealing with the injury.
“That’s all I can do,” he said. “Tape it up and hope it doesn’t get hit or out of position too much.”
Brown had to adjust his shot by putting more pressure on his fingers instead of on his thumb. Bryant was able to help with this, since he had to change his shot after suffering a broken index finger on his shooting hand in December.
But Brown isn’t the only Lakers player visiting the trainer’s room. It’s been clogged lately.
Aside from Bryant and Brown, center Andrew Bynum is out with strained left Achilles’ tendon and guard Jordan Farmer strained his left hamstring against Sacramento, though Farmar will be on the active roster and may play Wednesday in the Lakers’ regular-season finale against the Clippers.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson explained after the game that Famar’s injury will extend playing time for several players, Brown among them. Whether that will extend into the playoffs is uncertain, but Lamar Odom said the team needs more games like Tuesday’s from Brown, who will probably come off the bench with Bryant returning against Oklahoma City.
“He’s playing great,” Odom said. “He has his shot going and of course he’s explosive to the hole. He’s a big part of the team.”