D’Angelo Russell challenged a dunk attempt by the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert early in the Lakers’ second preseason game and hasn’t played since. Marcelo Huertas strained his hamstring before the Lakers even played a preseason game and has yet to see any game action. The good news is that both are nearing returns to the floor. The bad news is that it may not be in Sunday’s contest against Maccabi Haifa.
Will the Lakers get a point guard back for Sunday’s contest against Israeli power Maccabi Haifa? “We’ll see,” said coach Byron Scott. “I’ll talk to Gary Vitti and see how (Russell and Huertas) feels tomorrow (after) a regular shootaround day, so we’ll get up and down the floor and see how (they) reacts to that … Right now I’d say doubtful, but tomorrow we’ll go through our regular routine as far as getting ready for the game and see how those guys feel.”
Pressing either player into action wouldn’t be wise, but it would also be nice to see both return soon. While Jordan Clarkson has comfortably slid back into the point guard role he filled last season and Lou Williams has proven capable as a ball handler for the second unit, both are more natural scorers and will likely be shooting guards when everyone is healthy. Having Russell to start and Huertas to guide reserves from that lead guard position would slot everyone into their most favorable roles.
Getting Huertas some minutes might be even more imperative simply to get a better idea what the team has in the experienced Brazilian and whether he can be a fit on this team at this level. While his talent is not a question, how it will translate to the NBA where he admits everything is “much more physical, explosive, aggressive” is something he and the coaches are surely curious about. Considering the team’s dearth of natural point guards on the roster, my guess is that Huertas makes the final roster, but it’s hard to know for sure with only a few practices to go on.
As for Russell, his injury does not seem serious, but continuing to rest him should he be even remotely hampered is a good idea. The Lakers have no need to rush him back onto the floor and should only let him play when he’s physically ready and fully cleared. While I’d hope that’s Sunday night, if it’s not, I’d imagine he would be ready to go by Tuesday when the Lakers face the Kings.