2. Return of the Wounded Warriors
Injuries are part of the game, and logically an older team like the Lakers should suffer more than the average team. But LA players have missed the ridiculous total of 170 games for various ailments and Covid protocol. By contrast, the starters for the Suns, Warriors and Jazz have missed just a combined 61 games.
All season long, LA has been without important injured players. That includes four for extended periods who were projected to part of the rotation.
Talen Horton-Tucker, who was re-signed to a three-year $30 million contract, missed 16 games. Once he returned, he struggled to find his way offensively. Recently, however, he’s started to have a positive impact on games, perhaps a good omen for the second half.
Trevor Ariza has only played 7 games. His perimeter defense and three-point shooting were greatly missed. Nunn was counted on to be the backup point guard and is still out of action but is expected back soon.
The most important injury so far is the MCL sprain suffered by Davis. Before he was hurt, AD had struggled with his shot, connecting on just 73% of his free throws and a dismal 18% of his 3-point tries. But it’s at least possible that the time off will propel him to come back strong in the season’s second half.
It’s ironic that three of those players (all but Ariza) are under age 30. Most of the team’s older players other than James have been able to stay on the court, including Melo, 37, and Westbrook, 33.
Who would have expected that a player signed off waivers late in training camp, 31-year-old Avery Bradley, would rank 4th on the team in games played and 6th in total minutes?
When AB was first added to the roster on a non-guaranteed contract, many speculated that he’d be waived at midseason. Instead, he has started 28 games, established himself as the Lakers’ best defending guard, and just had his contract fully guaranteed.
If most of the key Lakers are reasonably healthy come playoff time, we will all see just what kind of team they can be.