Lakers' Nick Young only has a muscle strain; could miss two to four weeks

Nick Young’s thoughts were dark as he crumpled to the ground at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Tuesday night.

“I just planted and tried to jump and I just felt like a sharp pain,” Young said. “I just panicked because I thought the worst.”

He thought he tore his Achilles’ tendon, but he didn’t. An MRI exam in Chicago on Wednesday revealed a strained right calf muscle. Young is expected to miss two to four weeks with the injury, the Lakers said.

He wore a protective boot on his right foot while at the United Center on Wednesday before the Lakers’ 96-90 win over the Chicago Bulls. Young said he’s been told to apply ice to the injury for four days, then can consider beginning rehab on it.

“We put Nick on the other team’s best player a lot this year,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “And he’s done a great job making them work. So it’s not just the shooting we’re gonna miss. We’re definitely gonna miss his defense, the energy he brings. The confidence his teammates get when he hits good shots. We’re going to miss a lot.”

Rookie Brandon Ingram started at shooting guard in Young’s place, and did have the responsibility of guarding the Bulls’ best player, Jimmy Butler, at times. Ingram made only one of nine shots and finished with a modest output offensively (eight points, three rebounds, three assists) but had a plus/minus rating of 14. 

Young suffered the injury less than two minutes into the Lakers’ Tuesday night loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Larry Nance Jr., Metta World Peace and Lou Williams helped him off the court. 

While Young avoided placing pressure on his right leg as he left the court, he was able to walk on his own power after the game. He was not using crutches, but the Lakers placed a boot on his right foot before he left the arena.

With more information, Young grew less morose about his prognosis. 

“They told me [the Achilles’ tendon was] not detached, it still was there, so that was a big relief,” Young said. “But then they’re saying it could be a little tear here. I was more worried about that. But that turned out not to be the case.”

Still, the setback isn’t easy for Young. Only three months ago, many assumed Young would be released or traded by the Lakers. Some thought his NBA career was over. Instead, Young turned himself into often the Lakers’ best defender, a starter and a critical part of their unexpected 10-10 start. 

“That made it worse,” said Young, who is averaging 13.3 points. “I was like, ahh, can’t catch a break. Especially with the run we’re on, it’s a crucial time for us. We were going up and down to try to stay in the playoff race and do all these things we want to do. It’s tough.” 

No rushing Russell

The Lakers probably will be without their two starting guards for a few games.

Point guard D’Angelo Russell is expected to miss at least another week with an injury to his left knee. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection a week ago, which has helped.

Russell has been doing pool cardio work, which reduces the impact on the joints. He will be examined on Monday and could return to on-court work early next week. Russell is traveling with the Lakers during their current trip. 

The team spent Wednesday night in Chicago and will travel to Toronto on Thursday for the first game of a back-to-back Friday.

“He said his knee feels good,” Walton said. “But it’s nothing we’re going to rush.”

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Twitter: @taniaganguli

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