The injury bug won’t stop coming back to bite the Los Angeles Lakers.
Last season, three different Lakers played less than 70 games due to injury, with Lonzo Ball missing a team-high 30 games with a nagging knee injury. This season, five players are already guaranteed to play less than 70 games, including LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram and Ball, who hasn’t played since Jan. 19 due to a Grade 3 ankle sprain. Depending on how many games Kyle Kuzma misses with his ankle sprain, he could join that group too.
Following the Lakers’ loss the Clippers on Monday, where they were missing four players due to injury, Rondo told reporters on Spectrum SportsNet that he’s never been on a team as banged up as the Lakers before:
“I’ve never had this many injuries, as far as different teammates being in and out of the lineups. Luke’s been doing what he has to do with what he has. Like I said, we should have saged our locker room here, at practice, everywhere. It seems like everyone has been hurt this year for periods of time.
“Me and Zo haven’t played together four games in a row probably all year. When I was healthy, he was out, and vice-versa. It’s part of the season, the sport we play, injuries are part of it, but I’ve never been a part of this many injuries in 13 years with so many different guys.”
Rondo has been a big part of the Lakers’ injury woes, as he’s missed missed 34 out of 65 possible games this season. The impact that injuries had on the Lakers goes beyond the number of games certain players missed, though —take JaVale McGee, for example.
McGee only missed seven games for the Lakers this season, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that bad, but once he returned from being hospitalized with pneumonia in December, he wasn’t quite the same player.
In the 29 games McGee played before falling ill, he was averaging 11.8 points per game on 62.6 percent shooting from the field to go along with 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. In the games since he returned, he’s averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game while posting a -3.3 box plus-minus.
He only missed seven games, but the effects of his illness lingered. The same could be said of Josh Hart, whose season got turned upside down after being diagnosed with knee tendinitis.
But despite all that, the Lakers are somehow still only middle of the pack in terms of wins lost due to injury, and Hart said that it shouldn’t be used an excuse for how the Lakers have played as of late anyway:
“I think (injuries were) definitely a part of it. It’s definitely been frustrating. Everyone in this locker room except KCP, knock on wood, has missed time, missing games. It’s hard to get into a rhythm, hard to keep competing every day down bodies. At the end of the day, we need to bring what we got and just compete to the end.”
With the playoffs seemingly unrealistic this year, the Lakers’ primary goal for the rest of the season should be getting and staying healthy. Whether that means resting or restricting player’s minutes going forward, it needs to be a point of emphasis going into their extended offseason.