SAN FRANCISCO — In two days, the Lakers are two thumbs down.
On Tuesday afternoon, the team revealed that center Thomas Bryant, one of their offseason acquisitions, will miss three to four weeks after having ulnar collateral ligament surgery on his left thumb – the same procedure that veteran guard Dennis Schröder underwent on his right thumb on Monday.
Coach Darvin Ham said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint exactly when Bryant got injured.
“He came in, it was bothering him,” he said. “And the way he plays, setting screens, diving on the floor, a rumble-tumble type of big, really providing a physicality, it could have happened anywhere.”
It hasn’t been a great start for the Lakers on the injury front: They’re down Bryant and Schröder, two players they anticipated would come off the bench, at least until next month. Others, including Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Lonnie Walker IV have been dealing with nagging injuries.
The immediate effect of Bryant’s injury is to lock the Lakers into a small-ball style of play for the foreseeable future. Davis started Tuesday night’s season opener against Golden State at center, and Wenyen Gabriel (somewhat surprisingly not Damian Jones) was his first substitute. The Lakers have experimented with small-ball lineups throughout the preseason, with Ham hinting that he was heavily considering those groups in part to help spread the floor.
But Ham also said he didn’t want to lock himself into any particular starting lineup.
“It’s early in the season, first game, we’re just in the starting blocks for this marathon,” he said. “So we’ll go back after the game tonight and we’ll see how things progress one day at a time.”
MATT RYAN HOPEFUL HE CAN STICK
Friday night was a tough one for Matt Ryan. The 25-year-old could hardly sleep.
He knew that by Saturday afternoon, he would know if he had been waived by the Lakers. His last preseason appearance wasn’t particularly memorable: The sharpshooter was just 2 for 8 from the field for six points.
“Every game, I was thinking it could be my last,” Ryan told Southern California News Group. “I was just praying that I had done enough throughout the past few weeks in training camp, practicing, preseason, getting along with everybody.”
It seems he did enough: The restless Friday night led him to sleep in Saturday morning. He woke up to a host of celebratory texts from his agent and friends.
The 6-foot-5 Ryan will hang onto the 15th man spot for an indeterminate period on his non-guaranteed contract. Ham was one of his biggest boosters, saying after the Lakers kept him: “He can shoot. Plain and simple. He can shoot and he’s a very high-IQ basketball player.”
After clinging onto NBA hopes for the last few years, Ryan takes no opportunity for granted. By now, his part-time jobs as a Doordash deliveryman and a cemetery worker are well-established canon. But Ryan, who shot 37.5% from 3-point range in the preseason and did get a first-half stint on the court against Golden State on Tuesday, hopes that he can push past his colorful origin story.
“I got two hurdles to overcome now: the Doordash and cemetery thing and Matt Ryan the quarterback,” he quipped. “I think it’s gonna take some time, but I think I can play at a certain level and shoot it a certain way where people can just look at me and say, ‘This is a really good NBA player.’”