The Los Angeles Lakers open the regular season opener on October 24 short-handed. Veteran forward Jarred Vanderbilt and rookie guard Jalen Hood-Schifino are both dealing with injuries and will miss the regular-season opener.
“Jarred Vanderbilt has officially been ruled out of the season opener in Denver by the Lakers because of his left heel soreness,” ESPN’s Dave McMenamin posted on X on October 23.
Vanderbilt missed all but one game this preseason dealing with the injury. His absence is significant beyond just the regular-season opener. There is a potential impact on the starting lineup. Head coach Darvin Ham acknowledged that Taurean Prince will get the nod in part due to Vanderbilt not being healthy.
Vanderbilt started 24 of his 26 regular-season appearances with the Lakers last season.
He also started all 13 of his 15 postseason appearances for L.A. who acquired him from the Utah Jazz at the February trade deadline. Vanderbilt averaged 7.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 steals in his regular season outings.
He averaged 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in the playoffs, however, and saw his role reduced the further the Lakers went.
But he was still instrumental in that run.
“His ability to just lock in and be selfless, taking tough matchups, diving on the floor, doing the dirty work, setting screens, going to the second or third action when he’s involved, it’s great,” Ham said via Asylum Interviews after the Lakers’ Game 1 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in April. “It’s invaluable. And I’m just happy we have an asset like that on our roster.”
He was also a key to the Lakers finishing the regular season on an 18-8 run, including their Play-In Tournament win over the Jazz. Los Angeles gave Vanderbilt a four-year, $48 million extension as part of their highly-regarded offseason.
Vanderbilt’s status has not changed much but Hood-Schifino will be out even longer.
“Jalen Hood-Schifino (right patella contusion) will miss at least the opening week of his rookie season,” McMenamin posted separately. He’ll be re-evaluated Nov. 3, the team says.”
The Lakers have plenty of guard and ball-handling depth on the roster as is. It is still far from ideal. But it is much less so than the potential implications of Vanderbilt’s injury keeping him out even longer than anticipated.
Jarred Vanderbilt ‘Just Clicked’ With Lakers Stars
“Everybody that came in, we were [able] to play alongside those guys,” Vanderbilt said via the “Run Your Race” podcast on September 19. “I think that’s why we were able to take off because we d*** near complemented what they needed at the time. So, playing with them, they was, s***, pretty much just leading the way.”
“We just started clicking,” Vanderbilt said. “We was connected at the time even though it was a short time.”
Jarred Vanderbilt to be Safe at Trade Deadline
There is still some speculation that the Lakers could be among the buyers again at this season’s trade deadline. But, if they are, Vanderbilt is one of the few players who can consider themselves safe.
“Because of the 6 month rule, the Lakers cannot trade Vanderbilt during the regular season,” ESPN front office analyst Bobby Marks posted on X on September 15.
It will be interesting to see how the rotation shakes out when he returns with Prince getting the nod first and Rui Hachimura coming off the bench after an impressive postseason. For Ham, it just bolsters his claims on the caliber of the Lakers’ depth.