The hits keep coming for the Lakers.
The team’s primary stated goal during the preseason was to keep everyone healthy for the start of the 2022-23 campaign. Instead, Troy Brown Jr. is out, Dennis Schröder just had surgery, and now the team announced that Thomas Bryant also had a procedure on his left thumb to repair his ulnar collateral ligament. Per the Lakers’ release, “Bryant will be reevaluated by team doctors in approximately three weeks”, indicating that Bryant’s return to the court could come even later.
Per Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes), players have missed an average of 24 games with UCL tears in the past, a timeline that now applies to Schröder and Bryant.
Shared this yesterday when Schröder went down and it holds true for Thomas Bryant today. The average time lost for an in-season UCL repair in the NBA is 23.8 games (~ 7.5 weeks). https://t.co/YmMOx8R9h7— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) October 18, 2022
The Lakers don’t appear to be thinking of Bryant as a starting center, given the “heavy consideration” they have given to playing Anthony Davis in the first unit. However, Bryant could still be a critical depth piece for a team that leans on the smaller side, and our Darius Soriano argued that Bryant had convincingly outplayed Damian Jones during the preseason, earning first dibs at whatever backup big minutes would be available.
Jones did earn the start in the team’s final preseason game against Sacramento, in which he looked okay but the Lakers as a whole were anything but. If there were still a contest between Bryant and Jones for backing up Davis or perhaps even starting, this injury to Bryant appears to have clarified Darvin Ham’s decision-making for the time being, even if the better candidate is unavailable.
The good news is that Bryant’s injury is on his non-shooting hand and is unrelated to the ACL tear he suffered in 2020. That means he can hit the ground running when his thumb heals and swiftly prove why he was worthy of the Lakers re-signing him.