HONOLULU — The fall seemed sudden. The fall sounded loud. And the fall appeared painful.
All of which sparked gasps and unpleasant memories of other past injuries as Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell lay on the floor. Russell just took a hard fall after defending Utah center Rudy Gobert as he drove to the basket.
But well before he could wonder whether this marked a debilitating injury in only his second NBA preseason game, Russell wondered about only one thing.
“I just couldn’t really move,” Russell said following the Lakers’ 117-114 overtime loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at Stan Sheriff Center. “After it kind of loosened it up a little bit, I was able to move a little bit.”
But Russell still lay on the court for about two minutes before getting up slowly. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and two of Russell’s teammates helped him to the locker room. The Lakers diagnosed Russell with a bruised glute, but believed he could return to the game after exiting with 7:49 left in the first quarter. The Lakers changed their mind and exercised caution considering the regular season has not started yet.
“I feel fine. I wanted to get back out there,” Russell said. “But Gary Vitti and the rest of the staff said they didn’t think it would be a smart idea. I’ll just ice and take care of it the best way possible and try to get out there.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott expressed uncertainty whether Russell would practice on Wednesday in Hawaii. But Russell remained optimistic he could both practice then and play in Thursday’s game against Toronto in Ontario. But despite Lakers guard Kobe Bryant predicting Russell will “be fine,” the Lakers’ star offered some perspective that could suggest otherwise.
“I had the same injury my rookie year too and it put me out for a couple of weeks,” Bryant said. “It was a tough fall. But it is what it is. I don’t think it’s something to be overly concerned about it. If he gets some rest, he’ll be fine.”
The Lakers sure hope so.
They have suffered too many injuries to count, their roster missing a combined 827 games because of various ailments the past three seasons. The most notable involves Bryant, who has played a combined 41 games the past two seasons amid overlapping injuries to his left Achilles tendon (April 2013), left knee (Dec. 2013) and right shoulder (Jan. 2015). But two other significant injuries happened very early in the Lakers’ recent seasons.
Veteran guard Steve Nash fractured his right leg in his second game as a Lakers in Oct. 2012, setting off an endless chain reaction in which he played a combined 65 games through three years. Lakers forward Julius Randle fractured the right tibia in his right leg only 14 minutes in his NBA rookie season last year, causing him to miss all the other 81 regular-season games.
“I was reminiscing to my whole thing,” Randle said. “I was like, ‘I hope it’s not that serious.'”
As for Russell, the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick has intrigued the franchise with his sharp passing, confidence and leadership qualities. But Scott refused to think all of that development could be put on hold because of yet another injury.
“He took a pretty good hard fall. I just hope it wasn’t anything broken,” Scott said. “The way he came down, I could tell he would be sore. I knew it would be his hip and it was just one of those things that now depends how fast the kid can heal.”
Russell provided some glimpse into that process as he sat on a chair inside the Lakers’ locker room.
“It’s not a comfortable seat. But I’d rather be siting than standing,” Russell said. “It hurts when I try to do different movements. Other than that, I think it’s going to take a little time. I’ll ice it and try take care of it the best way possible.”