It’s one step forward, one step back for the purple and gold on their injury report. Taurean Prince is set to return to action against the Miami Heat on Monday, but now the Lakers have confirmed that Jaxson Hayes will be out due to a left ankle sprain.
Lakers say Jaxson Hayes (left ankle sprain) has been downgraded to out tonight vs. Miami.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 6, 2023
This means L.A. will play without Hayes, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Gabe Vincent, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura, giving the Lakers limited depth and experience off the bench.
The good news is Darvin Ham can go back to his starting lineup featuring Prince. The bad news is that particular lineup has struggled to get off to a good start in the opening quarters. And with Miami being notorious for giving maximum effort as part of their “Heat Culture,” the Lakers will need to start well if they don’t want a repeat of Saturday’s struggles against Orlando.
With Hayes out, expect big minutes from Christian Wood. His production has been good, averaging 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and clocking in 22.7 minutes a night. I expect that number to be closer to 30 minutes against the Heat.
The only other bigs the Lakers have available are young and inexperienced. Maybe you throw Colin Castleton out there for a shift or two or play Maxwell Lewis for the closing minutes of a quarter so someone can get a breather, but that’s about all you have in terms of size on the roster.
Of course, Ham could go with Anthony Davis at the five and LeBron James at the four and rely more on his guards and wings. We know Davis isn’t the biggest fan of that, but given the limited roster depth, it may be the best option.
Ham will have to find optimal lineups with limited choices if the Lakers are to get their first road win of the season on Monday. If not, the Lakers could begin falling fast in a deep Western Conference that doesn’t look to be kind to teams that fall behind early on in the year.
Yes, last year’s team started 2-10 and still found success, but that was more of an anomaly than a path to a title. The Lakers won’t be able to make such drastic changes this time around, so while these aren’t must-win games, you do want to start building momentum and racking up victories where you can.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.