The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a setback in their preparations for the 2021-22 season, blindsided by an all too familiar problem. With the Oct. 19 tip-off fast-approaching, injuries have already ruled out Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker for an extended period of time.
Veteran 3-and-D wingman Ariza returned to Staples Center 11 years after winning the only NBA title of his career with L.A. to become one of the team’s defensive leaders in head coach Frank Vogel’s system. Meanwhile, Vogel revealed that the Lakers doubled down on Horton-Tucker’s growth on the defensive end in training camp, hoping to fill the void in the team’s perimeter defense created by the departures of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the offseason from within.
However, both players went under the knife with an ankle and thumb injury, respectively, and will miss the season opener against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 19. Ariza will be reevaluated in approximately eight weeks, while the Lakers announced on Tuesday that Horton-Tucker underwent successful surgery on his thumb and will be reevaluated in four weeks.
Just because Horton-Tucker will be reevaluated in four weeks doesn’t mean he won’t miss more time than that though, and Vogel discussed the impact of losing both players
“Well, it hurts us from a defensive standpoint,” Vogel said at shootaround on Tuesday morning.
“We’ve challenged Talen to be one of our stoppers this year. He had some really good sequences in camp and in the preseason games on the ball and Trevor is obviously one of the other guys we had penciled in as one of our better defenders, so losing those two guys really hurts us on that side of the ball, but I just feel bad for Talen.
“He’s looking to take a big jump in his career this year and for our team. This is a setback for sure.”
Rajon Rondo agreed that Ariza and Horton-Tucker’s injuries will impact the Lakers at a particularly unfortunate time. However, the two-time NBA champion emphasized L.A.’s perseverance which, he hopes, will allow the team to weather the unexpected, early storm.
When asked about losing two important pieces of the Lakers rotation, Rondo said: “It definitely affects it, but what it’s always been here with Lakers basketball is next-man-up mentality.
“Obviously those guys are still close to us around the locker room and continue to develop our chemistry off the court as well. So, nevertheless is part of the game, it’s a long, long season and we haven’t even started yet.
“So hopefully get those guys back pretty soon and get back to regular rotations.”
Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn are the other two Lakers whose preseason has been interrupted by injuries. However, the Lakers hope to have the two guards ready for the curtain-raiser against Golden State next week.
Lakers sign Sekou Doumbouya to address injury wave
The Lakers announced the signing of former lottery pick Sekou Doumbouya on Tuesday, filling their remaining two-way spot on the roster.
Doumbouya’s NBA career took a hit this summer, two years after the Detroit Pistons drafted the forward with the 15th overall pick in 2019. But they appeared to have given up on the defensive-minded forward, who ended up on the free-agent market via Brooklyn and Houston in the offseason.
Nevertheless, the Lakers appear to see potential in Doumbouya, which they hope will help diminish the impact of the injury wave that hit the 17-time NBA champions in recent days. The 20-year-old is still expected to spend most of his time in L.A. with the team’s G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers.
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