The Los Angeles Lakers are slowly working their way back to full strength, and at the perfect time to do so, as they will use these last 25 games to make a late-season playoff push.
According to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Josh Hart and Mike Muscala are listed as probable to play against the Houston Rockets on Thursday. Both Hart and Muscala were sidelined for the Lakers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks before the NBA All-Star break.
Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is listed as questionable. He didn’t practice on Wednesday due to lingering neck stiffness. He also didn’t play against Atlanta.
Unfortunately, there was no update on the player everyone’s waiting to hear more about: Lonzo Ball. Ball was a non-participant in practice on Thursday as he continues to recover from a Grade 3 ankle sprain he sustained on Jan. 19. Ball was given a 4-6 week timetable shortly after suffering his injury. Saturday will mark five weeks.
Until Ball returns, it sounds the Lakers plan on sticking with their new starting lineup, which features Brandon Ingram at point guard and Rajon Rondo with the second unit:
Walton said he liked how the new starting group (Ingram, Bullock, LeBron, Kuzma and McGee) looked offensively to start those last two games, but the defensive effort needs to get much better. Sounds like we may continue to see that group w/Rondo coming off the bench. We’ll see.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 20, 2019
However, while it’s likely that Ingram will start at point guard, there’s a good chance he spends most of his night guarding James Harden. If Ingram gets into early foul trouble, as he’s been known to do this season, the Lakers have a few other options they can throw at Harden off of the bench, like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson and Hart. When healthy, the Lakers have a ton of depth on the wing.
They’re less deep at the center position, especially if Chandler can’t play, but that shouldn’t be a huge issue considering Houston likes to play small anyway. Expect the Lakers to continue to experiment with James at center like they did in Atlanta.
Houston’s going to be a tough out, even as the visiting team, but hopefully the All-Star break gave the Lakers the time they needed to get healthier, mentally and physically.