As he’s worked to get healthy, Lakers rookie Moe Wagner hasn’t seen much playing time this season. But Sunday evening, the Lakers needed him, so he got first-quarter minutes and played more than he has all season.
“More excitement, anxiety,” Wagner said. “But honestly once you’re on the basketball court, it feels the same. It’s just fun, it’s joy. I love basketball. So finally, I was like, ‘Yes, I get to play a little bit.’ Just enjoy it.”
Wagner played 16 minutes and 35 seconds in the Lakers’ 128-110 loss to the Washington Wizards. He made five of seven shots, including two of three three-pointers, to finish with 12 points. Wagner also had three rebounds and one assist.
“The more and more comfortable he gets and knowing what to do out on the floor, the thing about it he’s always talking throughout the course of the game, just figuring out ways he can help the team or just communicating defensively,” LeBron James said. “That always keeps him in the right spot.”
During the Las Vegas Summer League in July, Wagner bruised his left knee, causing him to miss the entire preseason. He said it took some time for him to recover physically and mentally. Like any athlete coming back from an injury, Wagner needed to trust what his knee would allow him to do.
He scored his first NBA points on Dec. 2, but there’s a lot more that Wagner wants.
“It doesn’t really matter who scores, it just matters that you score, that you bring something to the team,” Wagner said. “I mean I’m not out there so people can cheer me on, I’m out there to help the frickin’ team. Yeah, just bring energy, do my job.”
McGee out with flu
As if the Lakers weren’t shorthanded enough, cold and flu season struck their roster this weekend.
JaVale McGee was sick all weekend. On Saturday, he played through his flu-like symptoms, scoring 19 points on nine-of-10 shooting with six rebounds.
After the game, McGee posted a doctored version of the iconic photo of Michael Jordan following his flu game — Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. The original photo shows Scottie Pippen holding up an exhausted Jordan. In McGee’s version, the pair was wearing Lakers jerseys with his own face replacing Jordan’s and James’ face replacing Pippen’s.
But with an earlier game Sunday, McGee couldn’t play.
“He was trying to get some IVs in before the game and something happened where he couldn’t get the vein … something,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “… He couldn’t take the IV and he just felt like he had zero energy. So last minute I was told he was out, which is fine. We still have to play better.”
Close back-to-back starts
Games on back-to-back nights are common in the NBA, but less common are the two start times occuring within a 24-hour period.
“Whole routine is always a little messed up,” James said. “Play in less than 24 hours, the way we got in. It’s the NBA schedule. I don’t think we’re the only team that probably will have a back to back like this. Just try to find a way. Obviously tonight we didn’t find a way.”
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