LAS VEGAS — So many questions linger as the Lakers’ 93-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings at MGM Grand Arena officially ended the team’s exhibition season.
Will Kobe Bryant become an elite player again? Will Bryant have a reliable sidekick. Can the Lakers thrive on defense?
No one knows the full answer yet. But it already has become clear on one other issue. The Lakers continue to struggle to stay healthy.
Lakers point guard Ronnie Price suffered a sore right knee that limited him for only three minutes, a devastating blow considering the Lakers already lost Steve Nash for the season because of a recurring back injury. Meanwhile, Lakers guard Wayne Ellington suffered a concussion.
The Lakers will evaluate both Price and Ellington on Saturday, leaving the team unsure of its depth entering its season opener on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
“I don’t know what the status is going to be with Ronnie going into the season,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “He’s a tough kid though. If I had to bet money, he’ll be ready by Tuesday.”
The outlook on Ellington seems less optimistic simply because his evaluation will entail visiting neurologist Dr. Vern Williams. The NBA concussion policies require players to go through a series of exercises symptom free before being cleared to play. Those tests include ones on the stationary bike, light jogging, running, jumping and agility drills, team drills with limited contact and then full court contact drills.
“Wayne because of the protocol with the NBA, that’s probably going to be dicey,” Scott said.
It’s also dicey how the Lakers handle their 17-player roster. They can hold a maximum of 15 players for the 2014-15 season. The Lakers also want to keep a roster spot open to coincide with applying for the disabled player exception, which will allow the Lakers to sign a free agent or acquire a player through a trade that is worth $4.85 million, which is roughly half of Nash’s $9.8 million salary.
Price, Ellington, Roscoe Smith and Jabari Brown have non-guaranteed contracts. Price is expected to stay, especially because of Nash’s absence. But Ellington’s injury complicates issues considering the Lakers would owe him a full salary if he was cut while hurt.
Meanwhile, Lakers center Jordan Hill sat out for his consecutive game because of a neck strain, but he indicated he will play on opening night. The Lakers also have injuries to Nick Young (right thumb), Ryan Kelly (right hamstring) and Xavier Henry (back spasms, right knee).
Still, it’s clear what remains on Scott’s mind entering the 2014-15 campaign.
“Injuries,” Scott said. “That’s the main concern. We hope most of our guys are healthy by Tuesday.”
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