Without Kobe Bryant last season, sans six games, Nick Young was the player to pick up the slack and become the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers. Coming into the 2014-2015 season, Young was supposed to continue his ways by assisting Bryant in the scoring department. It now spells early trouble for the Los Angeles Lakers, considering their right-hand man, Nick Young, has been announced to have torn a ligament in his right thumb. For a Lakers team that already had limited depth, this latest news will cause major problems for the franchise.
Young’s injury occurred during practice, when he attempted to make a steal from Bryant. Not only was he unsuccessful in the attempt, but his thumb got jammed while resting against his teammate’s arm, which resulted in a torn ligament in his right thumb. Because of the severity of the injury, Young will undergo surgery, where he is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
The injury to Young could not have come at a worse time. The regular season is set to begin in less than four weeks, and exhibition contests will commence on Monday. More unfortunate is that Young, more than anyone else on the team, was supposed to relieve the pressure off Bryant. Last season, the seven-year small forward led the depleted Lakers with 17.9 ppg at only 28.3 mpg. This coming season with Bryant returning from two substantial injuries, it is Young who was expected to take the scoring load from Bryant as he eases into playing form.
The problem now for the Lakers is that there are not many choices to fix the hole with Young gone. Bryant, who is one of the fiercest competitors of all time, needs someone who can be relied upon to put up the points. With Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol gone, there will be a struggle to find that guy. In the past, Boozer has been an efficient scorer. However, if last season is any indication, he is on the decline. Steve Nash is another player, who historically has been a solid offensive player. The problem with Nash is that he is in the same boat as Bryant. Injuries have hit him hard, making him virtually unable to stay on the court. Lin is another possibility to help Bryant offensively. While it is unlikely for him to return to his Linsanity days, he can be someone to be relied upon. The problem with Lin is that he will be coming off the bench, and instead of scoring, coach Byron Scott most likely wants him to be utilized as a playmaker.
It has been rumored that the starting lineup will have Wesley Johnson as Young’s replacement at small forward. This decision goes to show how limited the Lakers are in their options. While not a terrible player, Johnson is a supplemental talent as shown by his statistics of 9.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1 bpg and 1.1 spg last season per 28.4 mpg. He is a guy who can do a bit of everything, which should help the Lakers fill in holes. The problem is that it is unlikely that he can fill the gaping hole that Young has left. Currently, the Lakers need to find someone who can average at least 17 ppg to make up the difference.
Due to their limited options, the Lakers will go through some growing pains, especially early on in the season. As bad as their defense was last season, it is their offense that will have a huge question mark attached to it in terms of who will contribute. Because of this injury, Scott will have to use a lot of trial and error in practices and exhibitions before the season. Between the plethora of rookies they have and low-rent players currently sitting on the roster, he will have to find a player or two who can fill the void offensively.
The worst thing Scott can do is give Bryant too much playing time. The future hall of famer will ask to play more minutes, especially with Young’s absence. However, if Bryant does too much, too soon, he could be the next one to be injured. With the injury of Nick Young that already spells early trouble for the Los Angeles Lakers, risking an injury to Bryant will be impossible to overcome. As difficult as the Lakers’ season already was projected to be, they are truly facing challenging odds, just as the preseason begins on Monday.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey