UPDATE, 5/22 — The Lakers are no longer listing Mo Bamba on their injury report with his ankle soreness ahead of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals vs. the Denver Nuggets, and head coach Darvin Ham told Chris Haynes of TNT that he expects the center to be available for that game.
Does that mean Bamba will play after missing the last nine games for the Lakers? Only time will tell. But he will be available, so if the team wants more size on the floor, they will have the option when Game 4 tips off at 5:30 p.m. PT.
Original story and updates follow.
UPDATE, 5/20 — Despite missing the first three games of the Western Conference Finals, Mo Bamba may still have a chance to be available for the Lakers as their series against the Nuggets continues.
Bamba is already listed as out for Saturday’s Game 3, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Bamba could be cleared to return as soon as Game 4:
Lakers C Mo Bamba (left ankle) is expected to be cleared for a return as soon as Game 4 or 5 of these Western Conference Finals, sources tell ESPN. Bamba, who’ll have missed nine straight games including tonight, could offer an option for some limited minutes on Nikola Jokic.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 20, 2023
Earlier this week, Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times provided a brief update on Twitter after talking with the veteran center at practice, and reported that Bamba was “optimistic” about a potential return this series:
Mo Bamba told me today that his follow-up appointment in LA went well and that the swelling in his ankle following the PRP injection is all the way down. He seemed optimistic.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 17, 2023
That came after Bamba told Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s Andscape during the second round that he was confident he’d be available in the Western Conference Finals.
We will update this story if his status is upgraded.
Original story follows.
Lakers center Mo Bamba missed the team’s entire series vs. the Golden State Warriors after getting a PRP injection in his left ankle, and according to the latest updates on Monday, it sounds like he will likely miss at least the start of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets as well.
Bamba got the injection to deal with what the team has so far only called “ankle soreness,” and Marc J. Spears of ESPN confirmed the issue is related to the high ankle sprain that cost Bamba several weeks of the regular season after he was acquired at the NBA trade deadline:
Correction, high ankle sprain.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) May 11, 2023
Those hopes, at least externally, took a hit on Monday, though. That’s because according to an update the team gave to beat reporters at practice in Denver, Bamba is not currently with his teammates in The Mile High City because he has a follow-up appointment on his ankle on Tuesday morning:
The Lakers said Mo Bamba wasn’t at today’s practice in Denver because he’s back in LA after getting a PRP injection in his ankle earlier this postseason. He has a follow-up appointment in LA on Tuesday and will rejoin the team afterward.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) May 15, 2023
Mo Bamba was not with the Lakers for Monday's practice in Denver, according to the team. He has a follow-up appointment on his left ankle in L.A. on Tuesday and will fly to Denver after that. He's going to be listed as doubtful for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 15, 2023
After giving that initial word on him being doubtful, however, the Lakers straight up ruled Bamba out for Game 1 on their injury report a few hours later:
The Lakers now list Mo Bamba is out for tomorrow after it was previously said he would be doubtful. pic.twitter.com/2iJyzqcaWz— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) May 15, 2023
Lakers say Mo Bamba will be OUT tomorrow. His travel plans won't allow for him to make it on time. He's still dealing with fallout from ankle stuff, anyways.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 15, 2023
As we noted last round, Bamba played just 88 minutes for the Lakers during the regular season, and suffered this apparent reaggravation after playing just 10 total minutes of garbage time in the first round against the Grizzlies. Given that lack of familiarity with his teammates — to say nothing of his health status — it seems unlikely he ever would have played much of a role in this series outside of being six more fouls to use on Nikola Jokic.
With Bamba out for however long he’ll miss, though, any traditional center duties the Lakers need from a backup will certainly fall to Wenyen Gabriel, with a small chance of Tristan Thompson being broken out of his glass container in case of emergency.
But this matchup was always going to come down to Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers making a team effort to contain the two-time MVP. While Bamba might have been nice to have as an option, he was not going to be a panacea there. And with this medical update now following weeks of him being unavailable, it might be safer for all Lakers fans to assume that him getting on the court for the team to play any significant role is unlikely, at best. If he gives the team anything, that’s gravy, not the expectation.
The Lakers and Nuggets will begin their series on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. PT. When and if Bamba will join it remains up in the air for now, so stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for details.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.