For the Los Angeles Lakers, the 2023-24 season has so far been a case of seemingly taking one step forward and one step backward. They got blown out 133-110 on Thursday by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and they haven’t been able to get or stay healthy.
But help may be on the way, as Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaxson Hayes, three of their key complementary players who were out on Thursday, could return on Saturday against the Houston Rockets.
Only Gabe Vincent has been ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Rockets so far.
That means Rui, Vando and Jax can all potentially return, per @LakersReporter
— Lakers Daily (@LakersDailyCom) December 1, 2023
Hachimura has been out for several days with a nasal fracture, while Hayes suffered a left elbow ailment on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons and didn’t play on Thursday. Vanderbilt hasn’t played since preseason because of heel bursitis, and although he was seen working out lately, the team has been taking things slowly with him.
Additionally, guard Gabe Vincent has also been out of action for a few weeks.
All of those injuries have thrown things into some confusion for Los Angeles. They have prevented it from sticking to consistent rotations, and they have also prevented the team from building chemistry and continuity.
Lately, the Lakers haven’t been getting much production from their bench. Ordinarily, Hachimura is arguably their most potent bench scorer, and Vincent has the ability to produce some points and even handle the ball a little bit.
The return of Vanderbilt could be the biggest one, as he can guard multiple positions and provide the type of energy they have lacked at times.
After Thursday’s loss, they’re just 11-9, and the excitement from preseason about their chances of competing for the NBA championship has seemingly cooled off. While their championship hopes aren’t gone, it is clear the team has plenty of work to do, beginning with getting and staying healthy.
The big positives for the Lakers are the fact that LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been playing very well, as has guard D’Angelo Russell. Last spring, the same core had one of the league’s best records after the All-Star break and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. That success seems to indicate that the Lakers still have immense potential this season.