Darvin Ham Sounds Off on Lakers’ ‘No. 1 Priority’ Amid Gabe Vincent Injury Update

Darvin Ham, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Head coach Darvin Ham of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers snapped their losing streak, ending the slide at four games with a 114-104 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 23. But they did it without key free agent acquisition Gabe Vincent, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract this past offseason.

Vincent has missed all but five games this season, and he could be set to miss a lot more.

“Gabe Vincent is considering a surgical procedure on his left knee that would keep him sidelined for 6-to-8 weeks,” ESPN’s Dave McMenamin posted on X ahead of the win over OKC. “Vincent’s camp is exhausting all other options before settling on surgery.”

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham addressed the potential loss before the win.

“You just have to make sure everything is well and good with him and his health first and foremost,” Ham said via Spectrum SportsNet on December 23. “And then you just try to activate Plan B, which is next man up, so to speak.

“Out No. 1, top priority is just to make sure that we know what’s going on with him, and put him in a position where he can get healthy.”

Vincent, 27, is averaging 5.0 points, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 rebounds in his few appearances this season.

He had three points, three assists, and one board in just under 14 minutes versus the Chicago Bulls on December 20. That was his first game in nearly two months, and one game after he had hoped to get back on the floor.

Vincent has missed the two games since.

“Vincent rehabbed for almost two months for return,” wrote The Athletic’s Shams Charania on X. “But the swelling is back and procedure is now a real likelihood.”

He spoke candidly about fitting in with his new teammates on the court during the preseason.

“More and more [comfortable] each day. More and more each day,” Vincent said via Spectrum SportsNet on October 11. “Getting to know each other, get to know how guys move, how guys play, know our offense a little bit. We’re starting to grow.”

Gabe Vincent’s Timeline Could Impact Lakers’ Trade Plans

On the short end of that potential timeline, Vincent would have been eligible to return to the court by the Lakers’ road tilt against the New York Knicks on February 3. That would be the fourth game of a five-game road trip, though. It could potentially set up a return at home on February 8 against the reigning champion Denver Nuggets.

The longer end of that projection would be February 17 (if he had undergone the procedure on December 23). That would set him up to return against the Golden State Warriors.

That is a road game too. But it comes after the All-Star break, potentially making for an easier decision to play Vincent despite the long layoff. The Lakers could also take extreme caution and avoid their six-game homestand.

They’ll begin with the Washington Wizards on February 29.

That is a significant variance, especially because Vincent did not have the procedure yet, leaving his actual timeline nebulous. The Lakers could have a difficult time including him in any potential trade offers without having a better idea of how long he will be out.

Lakers Take Drastic Measures to Snap Skid

Vincent’s absence has exacerbated the Lakers’ struggles. Their four-game slide led Ham to make a change to the starting lineup. He shifted D’Angelo Russell – whom Vincent was supposed to push for the starting job – to the bench.

Russell had 15 points and three assists,  also connecting on three of his six looks from beyond the arc in his first game off the bench this season.

The Lakers have to hope Vincent’s situation doesn’t mirror that of Kendrick Nunn’s in 2022.