- Talen Horton-Tucker suffered torn ligaments in his thumb requiring surgery
- Lakers are already dealing with Trevor Ariza being sidelined for several weeks due to foot surgery
- Absence of two key contributors will lead to rotational issues as Lakers begin championship chase
After a busy offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers are working to build chemistry with their revamped roster. However, it hasn’t been a smooth process due to the adjustment period for their group of fresh new faces. That crucial task before the 2021-22 season just became more difficult for the Lakers after Talen Horton-Tucker’s injury.
Lakers continue to work through adjustments in preseason action
Through the first three preseason games, the Lakers‘ revamped roster is working through an expected adjustment period.
Although the Lakers have yet to play their newly formed Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, each star player has played minutes in exhibition action. It’s led to jumbled play, highlighted by Westbrook working to find a balance playing alongside his new teammates and gain further comfort in the offensive system.
After Sunday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Westbrook underlined the task of building on-court chemistry, especially after playing with Davis for the first time.
“We got time and it’s not even the start of the season yet,” said Westbrook after committing nine turnovers against the Suns. “This doesn’t even count, so there is no need to wrap your head around what you’re seeing. Obviously, it’s definitely important to get us all on the floor so we can figure it out. … I mean it was the first time I was on the floor with AD today, which is something that I need to figure out to make the game easier for him. Watch some film and figure it out.”
Turnovers will remain a constant issue early on as the roster figures out how to best play together. However, that task just got a bit more complicated after another notable injury blow before the upcoming season.
Lakers suffer another significant blow that will impact their NBA title push
The first few weeks of training camp and preseason action have featured significant adjustments.
The Lakers quickly suffered a significant injury blow after Trevor Ariza underwent ankle surgery that will sideline him for at least two months. On Monday, Los Angeles was dealt another tough loss as third-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker will miss extended time due to an operation to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
Over the offseason, Horton-Tucker inked a three-year, $32 million deal. The Lakers are counting on him to play a significant role as recent reports indicated he had an opportunity to crack the starting lineup.
The 21-year-old had performed well in spurts in preseason action, averaging 12.7 points on 39.3% shooting in three games. The loss of Horton-Tucker puts Los Angeles without another key contributor. He’s a reliable ball-handler who can impact the game through his passing and scoring.
However, the Lakers have the luxury of significant backcourt depth as Rajon Rondo, Malik Monk, and Kendrick Nunn will garner increased playing time. Rondo may pick up the bulk of the ball-handling duties because of his skillset and comfort playing in Frank Vogel’s offense due to his previous stint with the Lakers.
Meanwhile, Monk and Nunn can each become bigger scoring factors. Carmelo Anthony should also factor into that aspect.
A steeper challenge with roster rotations lie ahead
More than a week before the Lakers tip off the 2021-22 season, the team is dealing with another hurdle.
Los Angeles was already dealing with finding a way to adjust the starting lineup without Ariza. Head coach Frank Vogel is now tasked with configuring a bench unit without Horton-Tucker that can provide his passing and scoring.
It’s only one of the many things that the newly formed roster must figure out as the season rolls along. At times, the Lakers will struggle, but it’s part of the growth process to build the necessary on-court chemistry and experience consistent success.
Their patience will be tested, but the grander picture of competing for an NBA title must remain the sole focus.