The single biggest storyline of the 2014-2015 Los Angeles Lakers season — which is only one game old, mind you — deals with injuries and recovering from injuries. The Lakers franchise can’t seem to kick the injury bug in recent years, and for a team that doesn’t appear to have the talent to compete in a loaded Western Conference to begin with, trotting out a shorthanded roster night after night makes new head coach Byron Scott’s job that much more difficult.
In fact, after first-round pick Julius Randle’s devastating broken leg on Tuesday night, the Lakers could (sadly) put together quite the All-Injury team at every position on the floor. Here is a look at the top Los Angeles players who are dealing with injury and what each athlete’s prognosis is, listed from 1 to 5 by position (guard to post) on the court.
1. Steve Nash
Forty-year-old L.A. point guard Steve Nash announced last week that he will miss the 2014-2015 NBA season with a recurring back injury. Nash, who has had repeated issues with nerves in his back/hip since breaking his leg in his second game as a Laker, will have played in just 65 games over the space of a three-year contract in Los Angeles (out of a possible 246). That’s not what GM Mitch Kupchak had in mind when he gave up four draft picks to acquire the former two-time MVP.
2. Kobe Bryant
Veteran Lakers star Kobe Bryant is finally back on the floor after suffering significant injuries in each of the last two seasons (Kobe has only participated in seven regular-season games in the last 18-plus months), so hopefully he will no longer be a part of the All-Injury team going forward. Still, it remains to be seen how high of a level Bryant can perform at consistently as he attempts his latest comeback, and there will be plenty of gasps, shudders, and anxious faces in Staples Center every time he collides with a defender, lands awkwardly, or hits the floor. (Also of note in the injury department at shooting guard, in case you think we’re cheating by including the no-longer-injured Kobe: L.A. is still missing Wayne Ellington from the backcourt rotation with a concussion.)
3. Nick Young
Nick Young, or “Swaggy P,” as he’s affectionately known, was the purple and gold’s leading scorer in 2013-2014 with 17.9 points per game. Young is currently sidelined after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb and won’t be back on the floor to begin his second season as a Laker until December at the earliest. Can L.A. find enough offense from players not named Kobe while Young’s on the shelf?
4. Ryan Kelly
2013 second-round pick Ryan Kelly missed the entire preseason with injuries to both hamstrings, and Los Angeles is still waiting game by game to see when Kelly might be able to make his 2014-2015 debut. The Lakers could use the Duke product’s outside shooting, as it would be nice to have a 4 that can stretch the floor from the three-point arc (especially for a team that showed no real interest in scoring from downtown during the preseason).
5. Julius Randle
There aren’t really words to describe a 19-year-old basketball player fulfilling a lifetime dream by playing in his first regular-season NBA game, only to suffer a horrifying injury before the final whistle sounds. An 82-game rookie season just got cut significantly shorter for No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle, who broke his leg in the fourth quarter of a long-since-decided blowout loss to Houston on opening night on Tuesday. Randle was taken off the floor with the help of an air cast and stretcher, and will likely have surgery this week. Expect him to miss most, if not all, of the season, leaving the shellshocked Lakers without the player they were hoping could develop into the next great Los Angeles superstar. Coming off a 27-win performance last season, the outlook for L.A. this year was relatively bleak to begin with. Now, after losing Nash and Randle in the space of a week, it’s downright grim.