The Los Angeles Lakers are not looking like the juggernaut on defense as they have over the last two seasons. Obviously, trades and new faces have affected that identity. This time around, injuries are the culprit. You can say that this is a recurring theme given the absences of LeBron James and Anthony Davis last year. This time around it’s Talen Horton-Tucker that has the bug.
THT went into surgery today to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. It’s a literal freak injury with no explanation. The good news is post-surgery will start recovery and the climb-back. The bad news is the absence itself. He will be re-evaluated in four weeks, per the team’s release today.
Before their preseason game tonight, head coach Frank Vogel spoke about how he planned to challenge THT on the defensive end. He hinted at him getting big assignments and being tasked with more responsibility this season. Without him on the floor, it brings about some problems that the team wishes they could do without. Vogel talked in detail about how the team and THT himself are at a loss, per Silver Screen & Roll’s Harrison Faigen:
“Well, it hurts just from a defensive standpoint. We’ve challenged Talen to be one of our perimeter stoppers this year and he had some really good sequences in camp and in preseason games, in particular on the ball, and Trevor (Ariza) is obviously one of the other guys who was one of our better defenders, so losing those two guys really hurts us on that side of the ball. But I just feel bad for Talen. He’s looking to make a big jump in his career this year and for our team, and this is a setback for sure.”
Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker were the defacto defenders who could take on guards and forwards. It’s a big question going into the year how they will handle the likes of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. No one is really stopping those guys, but you need someone willing to keep them from their sweet spots.
The team can’t afford many more absences. Their chemistry is reliant on all minds working together and sharing these new concepts. The schemes on offense and defense have undergone change. It’s evident in the preseason that they are ironing out the wrinkles of those changes.
In all four of the team’s losses, opponents are averaging 121 points per game against the Lakers. It’s “just preseason” and guys are rotating in and out of the lineup. That has been the saving grace for full-out panic. There does have to be some notice of the high-scoring trend and the Lakers must adjust and gear up. They’re down their best young prospect, and any other additional problems just spells potential disaster.