SOURCES: Gabe Vincent, Jarred Vanderbilt still unlikely to play this season, despite contradictory reports

Anthony Irwin
6 Min Read
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Despite recent reports to the contrary, sources close to the Los Angeles Lakers speaking on the condition of anonymity say it remains unlikely Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent play again this season. Both have missed several months this year with complicated injuries and between their actual recoveries and the required conditioning, odds are heavily against their return before the postseason, if at all.

Tuesday afternoon, CBS reported Vanderbilt, Vincent and Christian Wood are all likely to miss this season. Later that day, though, longtime NBA scribe Marc Stein reported that optimism remains for Vincent’s return. This is what happens when a team and a player’s camp aren’t necessarily on the same page.

Vincent has played in only five games this season as he dealt with a knee effusion. Eventually, after a first failed attempt at returning, Vincent underwent surgery on his knee and has been working to get back ever since. His agent, Bill Neff of SAGA Sports has been very active behind the scenes trying to get word out that Vincent is definitely coming back, but those close to the Lakers remain skeptical.

This wouldn’t be the first time Neff has surprised the Lakers with this kind of messaging, either.

Earlier this season, The Athletic reported relatively out of nowhere that Vincent would be returning to the court when the Lakers played the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden after missing a little more than a month.

Per sources, that information caught some within the organization off guard. To make matters even weirder, Vincent would remain out that game, and return the next game instead (against the Chicago Bulls). He played a little under 14 minutes and hasn’t played since.

To make matters trickier with this potential return, the Lakers may not have minutes available for Vincent.

After an inactive trade deadline, the Lakers leapt at the opportunity to sign Spencer Dinwiddie after he was waived by the Toronto Raptors. A major reason for the move was doubt at the time that Vincent would return this year and the desire to have a third lead ball-handler behind D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves.

As the Lakers have only 13 games left this season and all three of Russell, Reaves and Dinwiddie are healthy, the Lakers are moving forward as if Vincent will not be available. Even if he can make a return, it’ll incredibly difficult to find the kind of minutes he expected to play heading into the first season of a a three-year deal worth $33 million.

To be clear, the Lakers would not specifically hold Vincent out if he were cleared to play. This is purely a matter of opportunity in a now crowded backcourt, which could explain why Neff is handling this situation the way he is.

Vanderbilt’s situation is a lot more straightforward. He has been rehabbing ever since that non-contact foot injury suffered against the Boston Celtics. To this point, he has avoided season-ending surgery, and has made steady progress, posting several clips on social media of the work he’s done to try to make it back to the court.

While the Lakers would love to get Vanderbilt back and desperately need his energy, perimeter defense and physicality on the boards, they have operated as if they aren’t going to get him back. Some within the organization have even explained that the Lakers’ inactivity at the deadline was due in part to thinking this season was beyond salvation after his injury — which they considered season-ending at the time.

This season has been pretty frustrating for Vanderbilt, who dealt with heel bursitis to start the year, finally appeared to be turning a corner, and then suffered that mid-foot sprain in Boston. He has played 29 games this year and has an extension kicking in next season that pays him $48 million over the following four years.

The Lakers announced Tuesday that Wood underwent surgery to address his own knee effusion, and it is considered extremely unlikely he will be available again this season, per sources.

For those curious, the deadline to apply for an injury exception was Jan. 15. Vanderbilt had not hurt his foot at that point, though Vincent had undergone his surgery. The Lakers could have applied for such an exception for Vincent at that point but chose not to, as sources say, there was optimism he would return.

While LeBron James and Anthony Davis have made it through this season with relatively good health, the Lakers have had some of the worst injury luck in the league. They’ll continue to fight to rise in the standings and hopefully contend in the postseason, but they’ll likely do so without three key pieces of their rotation.

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Anthony has spent the last decade-plus covering the Lakers either in written, audio or video form. He has written previously on the TrueHoop Network, Fansided and SB Nation. He founded Locked on Lakers, currently hosts Lakers Lounge and produces other podcasts for Audacy and 247Sports. His latest venture has been news breaking, which he looks forward to doing for Lakers Daily.