The time when the Los Angeles Lakers were the young, upstart team surprising the rest of the league with their unexpectedly good defense seems long gone. The days of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram offering tantalizing visions of the next era of Lakers basketball under head coach Luke Walton but a distant memory.
Replacing those memories has been the Lakers’ most-recent stretch, in which the team has lost three games in a row and eight of their last 10 following a 117-110 defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz that was never as competitive as the final score would indicate.
The Lakers would seem to have a much better shot to get back to that level of competitiveness if they could get Ingram (concussion) and Ball (knee contusion) back.
But when asked if he would like to have both back, Walton told reporters that he isn’t expecting to have either Ball or Ingram in the lineup for the remainder of the year, via Via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Would we like to get Lonzo and Brandon back? Yes, we would like to, but we plan on not having them. We plan on having the guys that are in the locker room. We’ll probably get some of our G League guys back, being at home again. If we get them back, that’s great. If not, we’re going to keep preparing with these guys,” Walton said.”
Walton’s approach of getting his team prepared to roll with what they have is probably the correct mindset to have since they can’t count on getting Ingram or Ball back. But it also doesn’t mean both players will miss the rest of the season, either.
Ingram has to clear the league’s concussion protocol with an independent doctor before returning, and that could happen at any time. Walton has said Ball won’t come back until he’s pain-free, and while the team will surely be cautious with him, the rookie point guard could theoretically feel healthy enough to play before the end of the season.
However, with just five games remaining, both players are running out of time to get back to full health. And it appears Walton won’t hold his breath until then.