A tough string of Lakers injury news continued for Josh Hart Monday when he left practice with an Achilles strain. An MRI has been scheduled to determine the extent of the injury. This most recent injury comes on the heels of ankle and hamstring injuries that have followed him from Las Vegas Summer League to Los Angeles preseason action.
Already in a battle for playing time, it is a rough setback for a young player trying to earn a reputation as defensive bulldog on the perimeter. While not necessarily a lockdown defensive player, Hart has shown the right mindset to be a presence on that side of the court. In limited minutes he has had tenacity on defense and flashes of shooting. As a bigger guard, who admittedly takes being scored on personally, his willingness to push himself could now be hindering his progress.
While no one expects a late round pick to be an everyday contributor on the squad, this Lakers team has plenty of opportunity to earn minutes. The expectation out of Summer League, particularly with positives from Ingram, Lonzo, and Kuzma, was that Hart too may show enough to impress in preseason. Those hopes were dashed by a nagging hamstring injury and now it looks like Opening Day may very well be in doubt for him as well.
There are no such thing as good injuries, but there are such thing as worse ones. Three consecutive lower body injuries in the space of a few months now has to change the approach and expectation for Hart moving forward. We love to track numbers. We love to chart expectations of points, values of impact, but now the team needs to focus on getting this young player healthy. This will be a hard lesson for a young player trying to earn a spot on a roster known in recent years for rapid turnover. Hart will in some ways be playing against the training staff to get out onto the court and prove his worth to the coaching staff.
Head Athletic Trainer Marco Nunez and Director of Strength and Conditioning Gunnar Peterson already have their work cut out for them as we enter the 2017-18 season. A minor sprain for Lonzo, back issues for Lopez and Randle, and Bogut’s body revolting against him, have the beautiful new UCLA Health Training Center in full MASH mode.
As we head into Opening Day, already short Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who will serve a two game suspension, it is a bad time to be short another guard. The Battle of the Backups between Ennis and Caruso may very well have been won by Josh Harts Achilles tendon. Down two guards and with Lonzo bitterly battling a mild ankle sprain there is not much more room to lose guys that can dribble.
Let’s hope this latest injury proves minor and Josh Hart gets an opportunity to wildly close out on perimeter shooters in the next few weeks. While there is always room on the inactive list, something tells me there will also be minutes available on the court for this defense-minded guard out of Villanova.