By Mark Lamport-Stokes
(Reuters) - A surprisingly below-par season for the Los Angeles Lakers plunged further depths on Monday with the news that All-Stars Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are out indefinitely with injuries.
Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year, re-aggravated a right shoulder injury against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and an MRI the following day revealed a torn labrum.
The center will continue to receive treatment from Lakers staff and will be re-examined in a week, the 16-time NBA champions said in a statement.
Spanish forward Gasol, who suffered a blow to the face during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 112-105 home loss to the Nuggets, has been diagnosed with concussion and is also out indefinitely.
The duo's absence comes as the Lakers desperately try to climb out of a 15-18 hole, having started their campaign with heightened NBA Championship hopes after acquiring All-Stars Howard and Steve Nash during the off-season.
"Obviously it will be more difficult but no one is feeling sorry for us," Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Other guys have to step up."
While the return of veteran point guard Nash from a leg fracture for the last seven games certainly gave the team a much needed lift, the Lakers' ageing line-up has not been helped by a spate of injuries and three different head coaches.
Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has been their only consistent player this season and the Los Angeles have gone 10-13 since D'Antoni took over from interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
"It's screaming at us, isn't it," D'Antoni told reporters after his team fell to 10-8 at home following Sunday's defeat by the Nuggets.
"We're not in a good place right now. We're losing right now because we don't have a consistent 48 minutes of basketball."
The Lakers are next in action when they visit the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)