Nick Young returned to the Lakers’ starting lineup Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks, but the Lakers concluded their latest homestand still down two starters.
Point guard D’Angelo Russell remained sidelined by a left knee injury and power forward Julius Randle missed his third straight game because of a hip injury.
Randle practiced on Saturday but was removed from the session when the injury flared up.
“He’s getting better,” Coach Luke Walton said of Randle, who also sat out last week’s home-and-home set against the Golden State Warriors. “And even after we pulled him out of practice, he stayed after and shot and did some 1-on-0 stuff and felt good. It’s obviously a lot more pressure on the body and intense in game situations, so he’s getting better, he’s just not there yet.”
Russell was with the team and has said he plans to go on the four-game trip that begins Monday. The Lakers will play the New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, in two sets of back-to-back games with one day in between. Russell wanted to stay with the team to undergo treatment on the road rather than hang back at home.
Last Wednesday, Russell had a platelet-rich plasma injection to help heal the knee. His rehab so far has consisted mostly of pool workouts and core and glute muscle strengthening. He is not expected to play during the trip and will likely be out for more than a week.
Howard hears it
The Lakers’ wayward Dwight Howard era hasn’t been forgotten by fans in Los Angeles.
Every time he touched the basketball Sunday night, they booed loudly. The boos reached a crescendo whenever he went to the free-throw line, and were replaced by cheers with each free throw he missed — which happened four times in five attempts.
The Lakers traded for Howard in August 2012. They never truly jelled that season and went 45-37 before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Howard departed in free agency for the Houston Rockets.
Things have gone considerably better for him in Atlanta, his hometown, where he signed this off-season.
“He’s been great,” Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He has a big impact on both ends of the court. I think what he’s doing brings a physicality to our team that’s been really positive. And his efforts on the defensive glass, offensive glass, just really different for us. He’s been great. Open to coaching, open to his teammates.”
The Lakers celebrated what would have been legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn’s 100th birthday on Sunday.
“He’s part of what makes this organization so famous and so loved by fans,” Walton said of Hearn, who died in 2002. “Growing up my dad [Hall of Famer Bill Walton] used to tell me all the time that he grew up listening to Chick, and I think people of his generation all did, which was part of the reason the Lakers were so famous back then. I know he means a lot to a lot of people here in L.A. and the organization.”
Those who attended the game received key chains shaped like old-fashioned radio microphones, with Hearn’s name, the Lakers logo and 1916-2002 engraved on them.