The Los Angeles Lakers will start their 2023-24 NBA season on Tuesday night against the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, but they will have to do so without two of their players. According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, power forward Jarred Vanderbilt and rookie shooting guard Jalen Hood-Schifino have been ruled out for the game due to injuries.
Vanderbilt’s Sore Heel Keeps Him on the Sidelines
Vanderbilt, who re-signed with the Lakers this summer on a four-year, $48 million contract extension, has been dealing with a sore heel that limited him to only 13 minutes of action in the preseason. The 6-foot-9 forward is known for his defensive versatility and rebounding, but he struggled offensively in the playoffs last season, especially against the Nuggets’ formidable frontcourt.
The Lakers will miss Vanderbilt’s ability to guard multiple positions and provide energy on both ends of the floor. However, they have some depth at the power forward spot, with Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Markieff Morris all capable of playing there. Davis is expected to start at the four, while Anthony and Ariza will likely come off the bench. Morris, who was also dealing with a minor injury in the preseason, is questionable for Tuesday’s game.
Hood-Schifino’s Knee Contusion Delays His Debut
Hood-Schifino, the Lakers’ top draft pick this year, selected 17th overall out of Indiana, will also have to wait for his NBA debut as he recovers from a right knee contusion. The 6-foot-6 guard impressed in his limited preseason appearances, averaging 10 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games. He showed his potential as a scorer, playmaker and defender, and earned praise from his teammates and coaches.
The Lakers are hoping that Hood-Schifino can develop into a reliable contributor in their backcourt rotation, which features veterans like Russell Westbrook, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wayne Ellington and Rajon Rondo. Hood-Schifino’s status will be updated later today, according to coach Darvin Ham.
Lakers vs Nuggets: A Rematch of the Western Conference Finals
The Lakers and the Nuggets will face each other for the first time since Denver eliminated Los Angeles in six games in the Western Conference Finals last season. The Nuggets went on to win their first NBA title in franchise history, defeating the Brooklyn Nets in seven games in the Finals. The Lakers, meanwhile, had a disappointing end to their title defense, as injuries and inconsistency plagued them throughout the season.
Both teams made some changes in the offseason, with the Lakers adding Westbrook, Anthony, Ariza and Dwight Howard among others, while the Nuggets re-signed Will Barton and JaMychal Green, and added Jeff Green and Bones Hyland. The Nuggets will also be without their star guard Jamal Murray, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in April.
The Lakers vs Nuggets game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT at Ball Arena in Denver. It will be broadcasted nationally on TNT.