D’Angelo Russell injury update: Lakers guard to miss fourth straight game with ankle injury

D’Angelo Russell injury update: Lakers guard to miss fourth straight game with ankle injury

Initially, Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell said he was “not worried” about his sprained right ankle, an injury he sustained in the first quarter of the Lakers’ first game after the All-Star break. A week later, Russell is still sidelined because of it, and he won’t return on Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, either. 

Russell, who has missed three straight games and only logged nine minutes against the Golden State Warriors last Wednesday, told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that he’ll miss his fourth straight game on Friday. Asked if he could come back when the Lakers face the Warriors again on Sunday, Russell said, “We’ll see once we get through Friday.”

The Lakers are 30-33 and coming off a 123-117 win against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. LeBron James didn’t play in that game because he’s dealing with a right foot injury that will sideline him for more than three weeks. Anthony Davis didn’t play in that game, either, as a precautionary measure — it was the second game of a back-to-back, and Davis is still working his way back from a stress reaction in his right foot. With the Lakers in desperate need of scoring, Dennis Schroder scored 26 points in 37 minutes, some of them after spraining his left ankle on a drive.

With 19 games left in the regular season, Los Angeles is in 11th place in the West. Only three games, however, separate the fifth-place Golden State Warriors (32-30) and the 12th-place Portland Trail Blazers (29-33). There is enough time for all of the teams in the middle of the pack to either make the playoffs outright or fall out of the play-in entirely, which means that all of these injury problems are terribly inconvenient for the Lakers. 

In theory, Los Angeles is better equipped now than it was earlier in the season to deal with James’ absence — between Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley, all of whom were acquired at the trade deadline, the team has added shooting, playmaking, defensive versatility and depth. This assumes, however, that, beyond James’ injury, the roster is relatively healthy. As long as Russell remains out of the lineup, the offense will have to be heavily tilted toward Davis and Schroder. Russell’s absence hurts the Lakers’ spacing, too.

Russell sprained his ankle when he accidentally stepped on Donte DiVincenzo’s foot before inbounding the ball. He called it “pretty unlucky,” which also describes his team at the moment. Regardless of who is in the lineup, if the Lakers are hoping to bring James back and try to make some sort of playoff run, they need to beat a bunch of teams that are also fighting for playoff/play-in position. 

Friday marks the beginning of a five-game homestand, in which Los Angeles will host the Timberwolves, Warriors, Grizzlies, Raptors and Knicks. After that, the Lakers will go on the road to play the Pelicans and Rockets on a back-to-back, then return home for another five games, hosting the Mavericks, Magic, Suns, Thunder and Bulls.