During the rigors of an 82-game season, each team gets a first-hand experience at the physical demands the NBA has in store. For the Los Angeles Lakers, players have been falling victim to the injury bug and the roster has been forced to adjust barely 20 games into the season.
While no head coach would welcome the injury bug at any point, rookie head coach Luke Walton has been faced with a daunting challenge. As D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young continue to deal with their respective injuries, the second unit that has stepped up has also succumb to injuries.
Jose Calderon is expected to miss two to four weeks while he deals with a hamstring strain, while Larry Nance Jr. missed the game against the Utah Jazz with a knee contusion. The cherry on top came during the third quarter Monday night when backup center Tarik Black suffered an ankle sprain.
During the post-game media session, Walton stated that he believes Black won’t play on Wednesday against the Houston Rockets, putting the total number at five players out.
While also not officially hurt, other players, such as Julius Randle, often find themselves playing through an injury because the team needs them. Brandon Ingram, who has seen his playing time spike with the injuries, was the starting point guard on Monday against the Jazz.
Without Calderon or Russell, the ball-handling and playmaking duties have seamlessly fallen into his lap. When asked about the adjustment involved with injuries, Ingram didn’t want to make excuses for the Lakers, via Mark Whicker of the O.C. Register:
“We don’t make excuses,” rookie Brandon Ingram said. “But when you have this many injuries it can take its toll.”
The Lakers have lost six of their last eight games, with a reducing roster attempting to put up a fight each night. The last time the Lakers had a complete, healthy roster came on Nov. 15, against the Brooklyn Nets.
Ingram and the roster have a puncher’s chance in games such as Monday night, but they were unable to seal the deal. With a depleted core, the scoring duties have been spread out and delegated to players who aren’t on the roster to necessarily score.
For the game, Ingram went 1-for-6, with four points, two rebounds, and two assists in 25 minutes played. Ingram has already shown a desire of victories over personal achievement, stating his career night didn’t matter since the Lakers lost.
Ingram’s defensive abilities have also been a sight to see, as the learning curve for that aspect of the game isn’t as big. His long arms and agile frame allow him to cover the court well, playing strong help-side defense should he need to.
While he continues developing his repertoire and tacking on weight, his offensive game will grow. The roster understands that injury bug occurs to some teams, as rough stretches allow the young, healthy players to develop their games while the others players heal.
However, the Lakers desperately need their rotation back intact to get back to their winning ways.