While he’s inching closer and closer to his return, Austin Reaves will not provide the Lakers with a pre-Thanksgiving treat by getting back on the court on Wednesday. Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Knicks — where Reaves was initially listed as doubtful for the first time since his hamstring strain before being downgraded to out — head coach Frank Vogel still downplayed the likelihood of the unexpectedly crucial undrafted rookie’s return coming against the Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back.
“Still unlikely,” Vogel said. “He’s getting closer. But we’ll see how he responds to today’s work and where it’s at.”
On Wednesday, the team confirmed Reaves’ status in their morning injury report, officially listing him as out.
As expected, Austin Reaves is still out against the Pacers. LeBron and AD are questionable. Full injury report: pic.twitter.com/wR0kxlgRer— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 24, 2021
This matchup with the Pacers also marks the end of the team’s six-game road trip, all of which Reaves has missed. The undrafted rookie was diagnosed with a strained hamstring on Nov. 11 with a two-week timeline before being re-evaluated, which would be on Thursday. On Sunday, Vogel noted that Reaves was closer to a return than Trevor Ariza, who is also sidelined with an injury.
By nature, hamstring strains are a tricky injury to return from. While the injury may feel fully healed, one quick sprint or lunge on the court and the injury is re-aggravated with another long recovery period. This likely explains the Lakers playing it cautious despite Reaves clearly being eager to return to the court. The team obviously wouldn’t want to risk another setback, and seems to be trying to save Reaves from himself.
After the road trip ends on Wednesday, the Lakers return home for back-to-back games in Los Angeles, and won’t leave California again until Dec. 9, allowing time for Reaves to take part in practices to more slowly ramp up his activity before returning to the court.
But given how the Lakers have looked for the vast majority of this road trip, an injection of Hillbilly Kobe is sorely needed. Whenever it ultimately happens.