The Los Angeles Lakers will be without starting center Brook Lopez for at least the next three weeks due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the loss to the Golden State Warriors. Lopez is expected to re-evaluated at that time.
Lopez has been key to the Lakers’ newfound defensive aptitude by using his length to contest shots around the rim, and head coach Luke Walton says the team hasn’t quite figured out how they’re going to replace him.
“It’s an ongoing discussion right now, because it’s tricky with our bigs. Obviously, Brook provides some spacing for us. As far as the minutes and lineups are concerned, we’ve got some tough decisions to make,” Walton said.
The only thing Walton would confirm was that Ivica Zubac, currently on G League assignment with the South Bay Lakers, would not get the call in Lopez’s place.
“He’s going to stay down there for now. It’s important for him that he gets a lot of minutes, that he plays and gets his confidence and stays sharp,” Walton explained. “He worked so hard this offseason, with our schedule he just hasn’t been getting enough practice time or opportunities in our games. We’re going to leave him down there for now.”
Walton also made it clear that given the makeup of the next couple of teams the Lakers will face, they aren’t as concerned about missing Lopez’s size as they normally would be.
“With Houston and Golden State, these two teams, it’s more of small lineups anyways for most of the game,” he said. “We’ve got Bogut, Thomas Bryant is there, we can play Larry and Julius at the five.”
Walton also said Brandon Ingram would get a bit more run at power forward in those smaller lineups as the team searches for lineup combinations that work in Lopez’s absence.
Whatever the Lakers do find, however, they aren’t happy to be without Lopez, a feeling that is mutual.
“He’s upset, he said he didn’t sleep much [Monday] night,” Walton said of Lopez. “But he said it wasn’t the throbbing pain that was keeping him awake as much as it was he was just frustrated.
“You feel for him, it’s always tough when players get hurt but hopefully we’ll get him back in a decent amount of time.”
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