New Lakers Signing Sends Strong Message on Injury

Thomas Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Thomas Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Heading into the off-season, the Los Angeles Lakers had a clear goal: reduce the average age of the roster while also adding some talent and depth.

In Thomas Bryant, the Lakers have ticked all the boxes, as the returning big man, 24, is both young, and talented. However, as with most cost-controlled additions, the young big man doesn’t come without his fair share of issues – most notably the fact he suffered a partially torn ACL in January 2021.

Intro Press Conference: Thomas Bryant (7/6/22)Subscribe for the latest Lakers' content: Follow us on Facebook: Follow us on Instagram: Follow us on Twitter: Get the Lakers app:…2022-07-07T00:43:11Z

“Not good, great. I have no hiccups, I have no setbacks or anything. To be honest, my left leg feels even stronger than the right so I feel like it’s really, really back and I’m ready to go,” Bryant told the media during his July 7 introductory press conference.

ACL injuries are commonplace throughout the NBA, and while they can keep players on the sidelines for a prolonged period of time, most of them make a full recovery. Luckily for the Lakers, they’ve already seen Bryant play post-injury, as he participated in 27 regular-season games for the Wizards last season, averaging 7.4 points, four rebounds, and 0.9 assists per night while shooting 28.6% from deep and 52% from the field. 

Bryant Rehabbing His Value

After struggling to prove his value over the last two injury-hit seasons, Bryant’s stock has plummeted, which is why the Lakers only extended a one-year deal to him in free agency, despite his young age and upside.

However, Bryant’s deal to return to the Lakers works perfectly for both parties involved. Los Angeles gets a closer look at the strides the young center has made since leaving them in 2018, while the New York native gets an opportunity to rebuild his value around the league before hitting free agency again next season.

Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz hinted at this deal before it happened, noting how it’s a low-risk move for both parties involved in a July 3 column.

“Bryant could attempt to rehab his value as a starting center in L.A. on a minimum deal and look to cash in next offseason. Before tearing his ACL, he was averaging 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, and shooting 42.9 percent from three in his first 10 games 2020-21…Adding a floor-spacing big man in the frontcourt next to Davis would give everyone more room to operate, especially if Russell Westbrook returns,” Swartz explained.

Bryant Was Holding Out For Better Offers

Before signing his rumored one-year veteran minimum deal with the Lakers, Bryant was widely expected to be standing pat, as he waited to see if any better offers arose in the coming weeks. In fact, on July 2, Brad Turner of the LA Times reported that the 24-year-old big man was weighing up his options, and was in no rush to strike a deal.

“Sources: Lakers have a strong interest in reuniting with free-agent center Thomas Bryant, but with LA just having the veteran minimum to offer he’s in no rush to make a decision. Plus, the Lakers have competition for the services of Bryant, as Toronto is also interested,” Turner wrote on Twitter.

Evidently, those additional offers didn’t materialize, as Bryant agreed to a contract with the Lakers just a few days later. However, if Anthony Davis isn’t going to be playing at center, the lure of a potential starting spot may have convinced Bryant that the Lakers were the ideal team to help him regain his best form, and give him a shot at a genuine long-term contract next season – assuming he stays healthy and produces on the court.

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