The Los Angeles Lakers are in a bit of a rut currently, mired in a five-game losing streak that has come partly due to injuries that have plagued the team. In short order, coach Luke Walton lost games from his starting backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, starting power forward Julius Randle, and reserves Larry Nance Jr., Jose Calderon, and Tarik Black. While Randle and Nance have since returned, the Lakers’ chemistry has yet to come back to the level it was at to start the season.
“Just trying to get D’Angelo a little bit of playing time with the bodies we have available,” Walton said as Russell finished his work. “He looked great. He’s … moving around well all practice long. Seems to be moving pretty well right now in the three-on-three game.”
Russell has missed 12 games with a sore knee, which required platelet-rich therapy to help the healing process. The Lakers have struggled without Russell running the show, especially with Calderon, the team’s backup point guard being out as well with a hamstring injury. Walton won’t commit to Russell playing on Sunday against the New York Knicks, but it seems to be a definite possibility:
“If he’s ready to play, he’ll play [Sunday],” Walton said. “If he’s not we’ll reevaluate and try to get him out there Monday. He’s a big part of what we do and we’re not going to rush him at all. But if he’s cleared to go we won’t hold him out.”
Walton is correct that Russell’s long-term health is the most important consideration here, and that he shouldn’t be rushed. Given the team’s current free-fall, however, there certainly won’t be any complaints if he is indeed able to suit up again on Sunday.