The Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of work to do if they are to rehabilitate their image as one of the premier franchises in the NBA. In order to do that, they may have to rehabilitate their point guards, as a spate of injuries plagues this team just weeks before it is set to start the season on Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets.
“We talked a little bit before the game, and he said he just wasn’t feeling quite right. But he wanted to play, he wanted to give it a try,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said, per Markazi. “After the first quarter he said, ‘Coach, you know what, I’m done.'"
Lin's injury and this unsettling news comes on the heels of the Friday announcement that rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson will be out for at least one week with a calf strain, per the Associated Press (h/t Boston Herald).
Lin's ailment doesn't appear to be a major cause for concern, and Scott has left open the possibility he could play in the Lakers' Oct. 16 preseason bout against the Utah Jazz.
"He's a little ginger," Byron Scott said on Monday, per Pincus. "He said it feels a lot better today than it did yesterday. Thursday is going to be pretty much a game-time decision. I think he'll feel better by Thursday."
Every injury is indeed untimely, but the ramifications of these injuries—and the apparent handle-with-care policy for the 40-year-old Nash—could extend beyond the preseason for a Lakers squad that is trying to gel with a new head coach (Scott), several new faces (Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Lin among others) and a new version of the old foundation, Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers gave up 107.9 points per possession in 2013-14, 28th in the league per ESPN's Hollinger rankings. They won't get anywhere in a loaded Western Conference without a massive overhaul on this end of the court. Lin isn't known for his stellar defense and needs time on the court to absorb lessons from Bryant, who is preaching defense, as per Bleacher Report's own Kevin Ding.
"It's just nice to have somebody who's pushing me and helping me, teaching me the tricks," Lin said, per Ding. "It's also nice when he's one of the best to ever do it, even on the defensive end."
Defense should definitely come first for this team, but it's also important to consider how the offense will function without any clarity at the point guard position.
Nash is one of the best passers in the league when healthy and can make any offense go, but he's a huge question mark heading into the season. Lin is a fine passer in his own right, averaging 5.2 assists per 36 minutes last season, according to Basketball-Reference.com. However, he may have to take on a bigger scoring role with Nick Young out for some time with a thumb injury.
This would leave Nash as the primary facilitator, but it's tough to see him logging big minutes every night. It's also too soon to determine what the Lakers have in Clarkson, whom they are surely counting on for height and athleticism.
Bryant has been looking quite good in preseason play, according to ESPN's Tom Haberstroh:
However, the Lakers can't bank on him putting up numbers close to his career averages of 25.5 points and 36.6 minutes per game—although with the Black Mamba, anything is possible. He may have to take on a primary ball-handler role and become a distributor to help this team function, as he has done on occasion in the past. If that is the case, the Lakers will lack scoring on the wings.
With plenty of bodies in the frontcourt in Davis, Boozer, Randle and Jordan Hill, the health of the point guard position is something to monitor for fans of the purple and gold, as it could be the key to the team's success on both ends of the court.