The Lakers cannot catch a break on the injury front. After leaving the Grizzlies game with a hamstring injury on Saturday, an MRI has confirmed a strain in the muscle per a team release. Calderon will be out 2-4 weeks, joining D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young as other guards who are not healthy enough to play.
Calderon had performed admirably as a fill-in starter for Russell, averaging 6 points and nearly 4 assists while shooting 47.8% from the field (42.1% from distance) in 17 minutes a night. These aren’t world beater numbers by any means and he had his (predictable) issues defensively, but considering he’d not been in the rotation at all following the first Hawks game early in the year, he did well to step in the way he did.
There is no word yet on when Russell will return, so until he does it’s unclear which direction Luke Walton will go in with his starting lineup. With Brandon Ingram already filling in at SG for Young, there’s an argument to be made for simply starting Jordan Clarkson or Lou Williams since the bench unit has already been stretched and had a member pushed into the starting group. Taking this approach would certainly get one of the team’s better players on the floor for more minutes and, hopefully, help the team compensate with some better scoring in the starting group.
However, if Walton feels he must really try to keep his reserve backcourt together, he could always turn to Marcelo Huertas to start and see if he can soak up the 17 minutes a night Calderon was playing. Having the Brazilian playmaker log 8.5 minutes a half isn’t a huge commitment, but anytime you ask a player to jump from 3rd string to starter the odds of it being successful aren’t high.
That said, there is a case to be made for wanting to keep Lou and Clarkson on the bench where they can come in together to try and turn games in team’s favor against opposing 2nd units. Per NBA.com/stats, in the 450 minutes Clarkson and Lou have shared the court, the Lakers are a +53 and are outscoring opponents by 5.2 points per 100 possessions. That number has dipped some since Young and Russell went down injured and the duos minutes have been stretched to include more groupings which aren’t the “all-bench” wrecking crew, but the argument remains that they have done well enough together to want to keep them paired.
Of course, the better solution is to get Russell back healthy sooner than later. It’s been 10 days since he received a PRP injection to help his sore knee heal. The original timeline was 2-3 weeks, so there is a chance he could be back by the end of this week if he’s on the short side of that timeline. I am not advocating Russell rush back by any means, but it’s pretty obvious he — and not Huertas or Lou/Clarkson — is the best solution for the PG injury woes this team is facing.
In any event, this is just a rough go of things for the Lakers. After starting out stronger than many predicted, injuries and a particularly difficult portion of their schedule have conspired to knock them back a few strides. And while they’re still competing hard, there’s only so much you can do when a team as dependent on team play as the Lakers are suffer as many subtractions from their rotation as they have.