Jarred Vanderbilt continues to inch closer to a return to game action for the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Lakers coach Darvin Ham, Vanderbilt is “progressing according to plan.”
Jarred Vanderbilt is “Progressing according to plan”, via Darvin Ham. Wouldn’t expect him to play on this trip, but he’s clearly getting close to a return.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 29, 2023
Vanderbilt, 24, has yet to appear in a game for the Lakers this season due to left heel bursitis. He was originally traded from the Utah Jazz to L.A. last season, and he signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension with the Lakers in the offseason. As a result, he figures to be a major factor in the team’s rotation this season and beyond.
The University of Kentucky product was cleared to begin a “return to play progression” earlier this month. Ham provided a detailed update on Vanderbilt’s status at that time.
“I don’t want to put a time on it,” Ham said. “Just, the biggest thing with Vando is him – because for so long now he’s had to do stationary drills just individually, he hasn’t had really any contact obviously.
“So just day by day, him ramping up, getting his conditioning. Low-impact conditioning as well as basketball court stuff. And just to see how he recovers from that day to day to day. So, it’s good that he got greenlit to start ramping up and being more aggressive with the workouts. But it’s just a day-by-day deal.”
Though the Lakers are obviously eager for Vanderbilt to return to game action, the team has gotten off to a decent start to the season without him. Through 18 games, L.A. sits at 10-8, which is good for seventh in the Western Conference. The Lakers also went 4-0 in In-Season Tournament group play to clinch their group and reserve a spot in the knockout round.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Vanderbilt’s eventual return for the Lakers will be the fact that it could lighten the load of LeBron James. Despite being the oldest active player in the NBA this season, James has had to play major minutes for L.A. in many games, partly because of injury issues to other key contributors, like Vanderbilt.
The Lakers still hope to limit James’ minutes once the team is fully healthy in order to keep him fresh and healthy all season long, and Vanderbilt’s return should help to allow them to do that.
In 26 regular season games for the Lakers in the 2022-23 campaign, Vanderbilt averaged 7.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 24.0 minutes of action per performance. He started in 24 of those games, and he also started in 13 of the 15 playoff games he appeared in for L.A last season. Upon his return to game action, Vanderbilt could potentially rejoin the Lakers’ first five.