During the 2018-19 NBA season, one major factor that prevented the Los Angeles Lakers from ending their six-year playoff drought was injuries.
Highlighted by LeBron James missing a career-high 27 games, Lonzo Ball (35), Brandon Ingram (30), Josh Hart (15), and Kyle Kuzma (12) all missed significant time. By Game 77 of Year 1 of James and the young core, none of them were in uniform as they were essentially shut down for the remainder of the season.
While all of the attention has been on former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson’s resignation and former head coach Luke Walton’s firing, the Lakers did make another move to begin an extremely important offseason.
The day after the Lakers lost to the Portland Trail Blazers on a Moe Harkless game-winner, they fired head athletic trainer Marco Nunez, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
The Lakers fired athletic trainer Marco Nuñez on Weds, sources told ESPN. Nuñez joined LAL as an asst trainer in 08-09 & ascended to the head position in ‘16, succeeding Gary Vitti. LAL players had missed 212 games due to injury in ‘18-19, 9th most in the NBA, per Spotrac
While it is unclear what her role will be at this time, former head physical therapst Dr. Judy Seto is returning to the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
Dr. Judy Seto is returning to the Lakers according to sources. Seto, who was the Lakers’ former head physical therapist and worked with Kobe Bryant, has been assisting with Markelle Fultz’s recovery.
In Year 1 with James, the Lakers missed 212 total games due to injury, which was the ninth most in the NBA. Since Nunez was promoted to head athletic trainer prior to the 2016-17 season, the Lakers were extremely cautious with injuries and there were numerous times where players had to miss more time than their expected return timetables.
As Kobe Bryant’s former physical therapist, Seto’s return to Los Angeles is an encouraging one in an offseason that still has more questions than answers.
With the Lakers hiring head coach Frank Vogel and assistant coach Jason Kidd a month after the coaching search began, they can finally shift their focus to the 2019 NBA Draft and free agency. While the goal remains landing a second All-Star player via free agency or trade, hiring a new training staff may be an underrated aspect but extremely crucial to the team’s ability to truly end their six-year playoff drought and compete for championships again.