Lakers’ Trevor Ariza Makes Practice Debut, Could Soon Hit Starting 5

Trevor Ariza, Lakers

Getty Trevor Ariza, Lakers

At last, the Lakers’ outlook is on the upswing. First, we learned that news about LeBron James having tested positive for COVID-19 has turned out to be not nearly as bad as originally reported, because James apparently had one false positive with the NBA followed by a series of negative tests, clearing the way for his return to the lineup on Friday night.

Now, we have word that one of the keys to the Lakers’ potential smallball lineups, veteran forward Trevor Ariza, has taken a major step in his injury recovery—Ariza returned to the practice floor on Thursday.

Ariza had preseason ankle surgery on October 6 and the original plan was to have him be re-evaluated in eight weeks. That likely happened last week—the eight-week mark—clearing the way for his return to the practice court on Thursday.

Frank Vogel gives player updates coming off the quick road trip | Lakers PracticeSubscribe for the latest Lakers' content: Follow us on Facebook: Follow us on Instagram: Follow us on Twitter: Get the Lakers app:…2021-12-02T22:32:02Z

“Positive news for Trevor,” coach Frank Vogel said, “Trevor did participate for the first time this season in practice on a non-contact basis. But most of practice was non-contact. So, he was in just about everything. Obviously, a lot of different movements that go into that. Still a ways away, still has a build-up period before we can expect him to be in the lineup, but definitely a positive step today.”

Avery Bradley Won’t Need Surgery

Vogel also said after practice that guard Avery Bradley, who injured his thumb in the Lakers last game, would not need surgery to repair it. Vogel said Bradley would play with a splint on, though he might give him a few days off to let the thumb heal before putting Bradley back on the floor.

Of course, the return of Ariza would, as many Lakers fans hope, mean that the Lakers won’t have to keep Bradley in the starting lineup, where he has been among the biggest net-negatives of any starter in the NBA—his plus/minus number is minus-5.1 per game.

Ariza, signed in the offseason after finished last year with the Heat, can play a combo forward role, allowing Talen Horton-Tucker to move to off guard in a backcourt with Russell Westbrook. The Lakers could, eventually, go with Kendrick Nunn at the 2-guard, but Nunn remains out with a persistent knee issue. Ariza is 36 and not much of a scoring option (9.4 points last year) but is a solid perimeter defender, a weakness of the Lakers.

It is possible that Ariza could get his conditioning up and make his game debut by the end of the month, but he did say this week that he does not have a “definite date or anything like that” set for a return.

Practice Time Ahead for Lakers

All in all, the Lakers are hoping to take the next few days as an opportunity to regroup. Thursday marked one of the few practice days they’ve had since training camp, and they will get two more in the coming days, too. They face the struggling Clippers at home on Friday and don’t play again until Tuesday.

“It’s welcome to have some practice time,” Vogel said. “Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it with their legs and you want to keep guys healthy. We get a lot accomplished from the standpoint of reps and familiarity and drillwork that really carries over onto the floor.

“This group has really learned from that over the last couple of years but in particular this season with this group. We have not touched the floor in a long time, it was great to get guys out there and really tighten up some of the habits defensively and work on some of the things offensively with regard to fundamentals that we haven’t really been able to do on the floor.”

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