One player who the Los Angeles Lakers badly missed at the start of the season was defensive forward Jarred Vanderbilt. One of the best perimeter defenders in the league, the Lakers were undoubtedly happy to get him back on the court after dealing with a heel injury.
Since returning, Vanderbilt has been solid and has provided some much-needed energy along with all of the dirty work things he does on the court. However he hasn’t quite looked like the version of the player from last season and the Lakers forward noted he’s still working his way back into shape.
“Nah, it’s still a process,” Vanderbilt said when asked about his conditioning. “I wasn’t expecting to come back overnight so just keep trying to stay positive, keep pushing through it.”
But it isn’t just his conditioning that still is a work in progress, but his heel issue isn’t completely gone either. Vanderbilt looked as if he potentially re-aggravated it in the Lakers’ loss to the Knicks, but he brushed it off as nothing serious. “I kind of hit it a little bit, but it’s good,” he said.
Furthermore, Vanderbilt admitted that the injury is still limiting what he can do on the court overall.
“It’s naturally limiting what I do, obviously,” the Lakers forward added. “So just trying to make the most of it, trying to say on top of it. It’s a tough injury, so just trying to stay on top of it and trying to make the best of it.”
For a player whose game is predicated on defense, rebounding and energy, any kind of foot injury makes it difficult to have that same impact. Having to plant and explode off of that foot regularly is difficult and Vanderbilt isn’t sure when he’ll be completely back to being himself.
But he will continue pushing through and fighting to be the best version of himself, namely because he knows what is possible if the Lakers are at their best.
“Because we have a chance,” Vanderbilt responded when asked why he came back even if he isn’t 100 percent. “I consider us being a contender. And I know how far we can go if fully healthy, so that’s the reason I tried to come back and fight through it and get right.”
Health is always a question mark for any team and the Lakers have struggled with it all year long. But Vanderbilt and the rest of the Lakers truly believe they can reach the ultimate goal as long as everyone is available.
Jarred Vanderbilt discusses where he can help the Lakers
While he was out, Vanderbilt was able to watch the Lakers from the sideline and outlined where he feels he can help the team now that he’s back.
“Just versatility,” he said. “Rebounding, defending, offensive rebounding, being an active cutter and just being an anchor on the defensive end. I think sometimes we lack communication as well so just being a vocal point on that end of the floor.”
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