One of the biggest missing pieces of the Lakers this season has been Jarred Vanderbilt. Statistically, there wasn’t much the team missed but it was more how he fit into the starting lineup and how he properly slotted everyone into their roles.
While he didn’t return and immediately take those responsibilities on Saturday, he did make his season debut in the Lakers win over the Rockets and took a step in the right direction. Vando came off the bench and played just 14 minutes, but it was quickly apparent that he brought a skill set the team had sorely lacked.
“I feel good, I mean a little rusty as expected,” Vanderbilt said. “So just trying to get back in rhythm, get back in shape, and continue to build chemistry on the court with my teammates.”
Again, statistically, nothing jumped out in those minutes. He finished with four rebounds and an assist. But his impact was felt.
For a team that has struggled with defensive rebounding, Vanderbilt’s contributions there jumped out. And there is no better point-of-attack defender on the roster than him. Pair Vanderbilt alongside a Cam Reddish and the Lakers can wreak havoc.
Vanderbilt spoke about what he was able to see while watching from the sidelines through the first 20 games of the season.
“Just being able to see the game from a different perspective,” Vando said of what he learned while out injured. “Kind of seeing what we excelled at, what we lacked in and how I can impact the game when I get back on the court. So just being around them and still being able to talk to them, coach them up from my perspective on the sidelines and even them as well, keeping me in the loop.”
With the chance to take what he learned and apply it to the court, the Lakers are anxious to see him able to contribute once more. Anthony Davis spoke postgame about what things Vanderbilt can bring to the team now.
“His energy, his activity, obviously what he’s able to do on the defensive end,” AD said. “Guarding multiple positions, steals, deflections, rebounding, getting sides back out there for the rebounding. That was good to get him for the minute that he’s played.”
It’s an exciting time for the Lakers. The wins are coming, the team is getting healthier and a player like Vando, who quickly became a fan favorite last year, is back on the court and ready to make those winning plays again.
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