Lonnie Walker IV has missed the last 14 games for the Lakers as he continues to deal with tendinitis in his left knee, but after being upgraded from “out” to “questionable” on the team’s last three injury reports, he might be able to make his return vs. the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
Walker told reporters at shootaround that he will go through a workout pregame to see if he can play tonight, and will be on a minutes restriction if he does indeed suit up.
Lonnie Walker IV said he’s “pretty close” to returning and will test his knee out pregame tonight.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 28, 2023
Lonnie Walker says he will go through a pregame test to determine if he can make his return tonight. He estimates a minutes restriction in the 20-25 minute range if he’s cleared.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 28, 2023
Whenever Walker does return to the lineup — whether vs. the Celtics, or later on — he will provide the Lakers with more scoring and shooting in the backcourt, as he’s shot 38.4% on threes this season while also giving the team a needed dose of athleticism.
Still, it will be interesting to see where he fits into a rotation that has become a lot more settled in his absence as Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schröder have found their form to varying degrees, and Russell Westbrook has continued to mostly succeed as a high-minutes reserve. And with Rui Hachimura’s addition to the team in a trade this week, the Lakers have less of a need for Walker to masquerade as a shooting guard-sized wing, which could either leave more room for him to thrive at his natural position, or cut into his minutes.
It is also worth noting that while injuries and absences can lead to some noise in this statistic, the Lakers have never been better by net rating (+1.8) than they are when Walker sits, and are getting outscored by 5.5 points per 100 possessions while he is on the floor. Will that change if he doesn’t have to pretend to be a wing as often in three and four-guard lineups? It seems possible, but where he slots in best will be one of the primary things head coach Darvin Ham will have to figure out as he continues to get a roster that is closer to full strength.
The Lakers take on the Celtics in Boston at 5:30 p.m. PST on Saturday night.
This breaking news story may be further updated with more information and analysis as it continues to develop.