Lakers insider finally provides update on Jarred Vanderbilt’s potential return to court

Jesse Cinquini
4 Min Read
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, Los Angeles Lakers defensive ace Jarred Vanderbilt has progressed in his recovery from his right foot injury to the point where he is participating in “light jogging.”

“I’ve been told that Vando has ramped up his conditioning into light jogging,” Buha said. “But he has not returned to on-court contact activity yet, which means he’s not gonna play Sunday in New Orleans. Even playing in the play-in seems unlikely. So, if Vando returns, it’s appearing as if it’s gonna have to be in the first round of the playoffs on the early side. So, maybe the Lakers get him back for a matchup against the [Minnesota] Timberwolves or the [Oklahoma City] Thunder or maybe even mid-series.”

Interestingly, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said on Friday that there weren’t any new updates to give on Vanderbilt’s injury, which has kept him sidelined since February.

It’s worth mentioning that Buha reported last month that there was a chance Vanderbilt could make his return to the court for the Lakers in early April.

“From what I’ve heard, the Lakers are targeting early April,” Buha previously said regarding Vanderbilt’s potential return. “I don’t have a concrete date in terms of is that April 2nd? Is that April 9th? But sometime within that first week to week and a half of April, the Lakers are trying to get Vando back. The season ends on April 14th, so they are trying to get him back to get at least three or four games under his belt. One good sign is he’s been traveling with the team.”

Vanderbilt has been in and out of the lineup for the Lakers in the 2023-24 regular season, his second season with the iconic organization. He has suited up in far fewer than half of Los Angeles’ 81 regular-season contests to this point, as across 29 appearances, he is averaging 5.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game on 51.8 percent shooting from the field.

Despite averaging just 20.0 minutes per contest this season, Vanderbilt is tied for the team lead in steals per game. He’s also averaging 2.2 steals per 36 minutes.

With just one game remaining on the Lakers’ regular-season schedule, it’s evident that the team will have to participate in the play-in to secure a playoff spot, considering the squad is three games back of the Phoenix Suns for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

But exactly who the Lakers will play to kick off the play-in tournament remains unclear. The Suns, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors stand out as potential opponents.

Vanderbilt’s defensive chops could come in handy against all three teams, considering they boast some of the better scorers in the league such as Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Stephen Curry and De’Aaron Fox. But Buha suggested that Vanderbilt, in all likelihood, won’t participate in the upcoming play-in tournament.

It will be fascinating to see how Ham and the Lakers try to keep their opponent’s top scorers in check during the tournament, assuming the team will be sans arguably its most disruptive defensive player.

The Lakers will complete their regular-season schedule on Sunday by playing the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.