After Nick Young left Tuesday’s loss to the Pelicans with what was originally being called a strained achilles tendon, we have been waiting on this MRI results to get the official word. Those results are now in and, per the Lakers, Young has a strained calf muscle in his right leg and is out 2-4 weeks.
This is both a dose of good news and stroke of bad luck/timing that will be difficult to manage.
On the good side, whenever the words “achilles” are tied to an injury report and an MRI is needed, I have trepidations. I know full tears can usually be diagnosed without an MRI, but the possibility of a partial tear or damage to the achilles in general could have taken him out of the lineup for a lot longer than the 2-4 week estimate.
That said, the Lakers will now be without Young for upwards of a month which is a major blow to their lineup. As their starting shooting guard, Young plays 25 minutes a night and scores 13 points a game. Replacing those minutes and production is not a minor feat. Further, Young is one of the team’s best 3-point shooters, connecting on 41.8% of shots behind the arc while taking 6 attempts a night. And this says nothing of the fact that Young is often asked to guard the other team’s best wing scorer.
There’s simply no replacement on the roster who can step in and mirror Young’s skill set. (Imagine saying this two months ago! Life comes at you fast.)
What makes this more difficult is that D’Angelo Russell is also out for at least another week, so there is not easy way to shuffle the team’s wing rotation without either playing the guys already in the rotation more minutes or going deeper into the bench to guys who have not been playing to try and supplement the current personnel groupings. I mean there’s a reason Huertas and Metta haven’t been playing this season even though the Lakers have been a team which plays 10 guys a night.
If I were Luke Walton, I’d look to Clarkson, Lou, and Ingram and tell them they’re all about to play at least 7-8 minutes more a night and maybe even more — at least until Russell comes back. Those three are already playing minutes, are rotation level players, and have proven skill sets which help the team. Manufacture lineups where those guys get more burn and go from there. I understand Luke wants to try and keep his all bench unit together — I would want to do that too — but there are ways to still do that even if Clarkson starts.
In any event, I hope Young can heal up and that there are no other injury issues moving forward for the rest of the team. The Lakers simply can’t have any more bad luck on that front.