The injury hits just keep coming for the Los Angeles Lakers. In less than the span of a week, the team has lost Trevor Ariza for at least the next two months to ankle surgery, Malik Monk for at least a week to a strained groin, and now Talen Horton-Tucker is set to miss extended time for surgery on his thumb.
Horton-Tucker had already missed the team’s most recent game with what the team only called a “thumb sprain,” but will now be undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in the ailing digit, according to multiple reports:
Sources confirm that Lakers wingman Talen Horton-Tucker to have surgery to repair torn ligament in his right thumb.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) October 11, 2021
The Lakers have yet to release an official timeline for Horton-Tucker, but our own Dr. Brar tried to contextualize the usual return timetable for this type of procedure on Twitter:
If it's most common thumb ligament injury (ulnar collateral) then he'll likely have surgery w/ internal brace (developed by Dr. Steven Shin in LA) added. Typical return timeline would be 6-8 weeks (for reference, Drew Brees was back in 6 with this procedure). Awaiting more detail https://t.co/nutmC3aaio— Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT (@3cbPerformance) October 11, 2021
This news severely compromises the Lakers’ depth on the wing more than a week before they open the season on Oct. 19, with LeBron James now their only larger option at small forward. The team had been openly hoping that Horton-Tucker could serve as a valuable wing defender on this roster, with both head coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Pelinka hyping up the team’s fourth-highest-paid player before the season:
That’s all going to have to wait now, and elsewhere, the battle for backcourt minutes just got much less crowded. The team will really need everything Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington can give them with Horton-Tucker and Ariza out, and Monk at-best limited for the near future.
Bazemore’s defensive versatility now projects as even more key to this team having a chance to get by on that end, and the team will also need Kendrick Nunn to live up to to the defensive praise both anonymous scouts and LeBron himself have sent his way this week.
This even opens up the possibility of emergency minutes for rookie wing Austin Reaves, who has played fairly well so far this preseason.
Austin Reaves is averaging 8.2 3-point attempts per 36 minutes while shooting 41.2% from deep.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 11, 2021
Still, this is certainly a big blow for the Lakers, who may have to use the 15th roster spot they were planning on leaving open sooner than anyone expected. Get well soon, Talen, but until then: James Ennis, anyone?
This developing story may be updated with more information. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.