The Los Angeles Lakers are gearing up to face the Phoenix Suns for the third time this season as part of the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. Both teams have been shorthanded in their first two meetings, but this one carries the highest stakes and improved health on both sides, especially with the anticipated return of Rui Hachimura.
Hachimura has missed several stretches of games this season with head-related injuries. The first was a concussion, and the current injury was a broken nose suffered against the Dallas Mavericks that caused him to miss the last five games. Hachimura has played in 12 of the Lakers’ 21 games this season so far.
But it seems as though he is ready to make his return for the In-Season Tournament quarterfinal on Tuesday shortly after surgery on his broken nose.
“Yeah, I think so. I think I’m in good shape now,” Hachimura said. “The last game, I know it was in the media saying if I was gonna play or not, whatever, but I wasn’t really in good shape. It was right after the surgery, couldn’t even really do anything for a week. Me and the team decided that we’re gonna try to get into shape and get ready for this game tomorrow. So hopefully [I’ll be able to play].”
Hachimura recalled the moment of the injury against the Dallas Mavericks and how quickly everything went for him from there.
“It was in the first quarter against Dallas. I went to drive and went to the basket and I got blocked and I fell and I think one of the players kind of ran into me and hit my nose,” Hachimura recounted. “I thought it was just a regular blow to my face or whatever but the trainer found out that my nose kind of moved to the side. They tried to fix it but it didn’t fix it so I took X-rays right after the game and it was broken. So I think it was literally the next day, I was in the surgery room already. Everything happened quick so it was like boom, boom, boom. I don’t even remember.”
The Lakers forward said the surgery was a success — as they were able to reset his nose back to the normal position and open up his breathing again — and he’s excited to get back on the court. And for the meantime, the Lakers are getting masked Hachimura.
“Yeah, they said I can play with a mask on. So we had guy that makes all of the NBA guys’ masks, he made a mask for me. So I think I’m gonna play in the game with it.
L.A. would love to see Hachimura in the lineup with more consistency, as he is one of the key pieces on the perimeter both offensively and defensively. He is one of only a few true wings on the Lakers in an era that has become reliant on lengthy wings.
Hopefully, he can find his rhythm quickly to help the Lakers secure a place in Las Vegas for the In-Season Tournament semifinal.
LeBron James happy Lakers are getting healthy
Lakers star LeBron James has been very reserved when it comes to making a judgement about the team, in large part due to the frequent injuries. But with Jarred Vanderbilt making his return and Hachimura set to do so as well, James was able to make more of a determination.
“We just want to get healthy,” LeBron said after the win against the Houston Rockets. “The more and more we can get healthy, the more and more we can see what we’re capable of. Saw a lot of length out there for us today. That’s great and great to get Vando back. He means so much to our ballclub, so just happy to have him back.”
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