The longer the season, the longer it takes for Frank Vogel to check off the injury report.
The Lakers coach brought the latest news just an hour before the Lakers tip the Brooklyn Nets: Kyle Kuzma was back with stiffness in his left calf and Marc Gasol was back with stiffness in his left Achilles tendon . Less than an hour earlier, the Lakers had another addition: Wes Matthews exposed himself with a strained left Achilles tendon – and he replaced Kuzma on the grid.
It meant that more minutes more minutes were given to fewer players – players who already had various complaints of their own.
Dennis Schröder complained to the media about a problem in one of his knees after Thursday’s game. In the first half, a fall on his tailbone made him run awkwardly up and down the pitch. An expulsion in the third quarter for a pair of technical fouls negated all of his complaints. Alex Caruso also played with a pain in his left knee. At a certain point, Vogel could only shrug his shoulders when asked how he and the Lakers training staff are trying to keep their dwindling healthy players intact.
« You do whatever you can, off the field or outside of the games, for the limited practice time, by keeping them off your feet, the actual recovery, all these kinds of things, » he said. « You don’t want anyone to get hurt, you don’t want anyone to be overwhelmed. We feel like these guys can reasonably play in minutes, but we’ve had a few bumps. Playing bigger roles than they’re used to and it’s just something we have to compete by. »
It was a common part of the NBA during the shortened season: The Lakers knew after the All-Star break that they had to play 35 games in 65 nights, a grueling stretch compared to most normal seasons. Playing so many games in the midst of a pandemic has had an obvious impact. An incomplete list of stars who missed a lot of time: Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, James Harden – not to mention the Lakers titans, LeBron James and Anthony Davis
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Overstretching the remaining players is a big problem. Vogel said Gasol’s injury was due to playing the Toronto Raptors for almost 28 minutes after Montrezl Harrell was thrown out in the first quarter. The Lakers have intended to play alongside Harrell Gasol in a few formations – no dice in the last two games.
The Lakers hoped Kuzma would be able to overcome the stiffness of his left calf, but the training staff decided to hold him out for another game. It doesn’t help that there is a duel against the Knicks and Hornets on Monday and Tuesday.
When asked how the Lakers-Nets match-up could affect aspects of a possible playoff match-up between the two (which has been whispered about since Harden’s deal with Brooklyn), Vogel said it was impossible to think so far ahead.
« My attitude is to win today’s game, » he said. « It’s really nothing more than that. We’re not looking to the future to find possible matchups. We have a couple of people on the pitch tonight who are going out there trying to get a W and there is a whole game plan and a strategy that revolves around it. »
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