It is has been difficult to truly evaluate the Los Angeles Lakers at this point during the 2021-22 season because of how hard injuries have hit the roster.
The Lakers have already seen LeBron James miss time, while Talen Horton-Tucker and Wayne Ellingotn were on the sidelines to begin the season. Aside from those players, Kendrick Nunn and Trevor Ariza have yet to debut for Los Angeles, while Austin Reaves has missed the past several games with a hamstring injury.
Head coach Frank Vogel offered up some good news, though, as it sounds like Reaves will be ready to return soon though Ariza appears to not be close. “Austin feels really good,” Vogel said before Sunday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.
“If it was up to him, he’d be back already… Trevor is still a ways away. So Austin is a lot closer.”
Reaves has seemingly solidified himself in Vogel’s rotation because of how he has looked on both ends of the floor and although Ariza has been rehabbing, it seems as though the plan is to have him heavily involved once he is healthy. “I have a role carved out for what I envision for him,” Vogel said. His defense and his shooting and his I.Q. are all things that we value and we view him as a big role player on this team. Not a big role player, but a player with a big role on this team.
“He’s a big part of this year’s plan. We’ve been without him, we’re making do without him. We’re looking forward to getting him back as soon as possible.”
The Achilles heel of this year’s Lakers squad has been their defense as they have struggled all season to contain guards and wings out on the perimeter. While the shooting boost from outside has been good to see, L.A. will not win many games until they can become a competent defensive team.
Getting Reaves and eventually Ariza into the lineup should help solve some of those issues, though it remains to be seen if they end up being the cure for the Purple and Gold’s defensive woes. Vogel has had a tough time settling on lineup combinations that can get stops, so those two can not come back soon enough.
Phil Handy says Austin Reaves can be ‘special’ player
Reaves has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers as he has shown good feel for the game on both offense and defense. The coaching staff is high on the rookie, with Phil Handy going as far as to say that he thinks Reaves can become a special player in the league.
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