Lakers News: Rob Pelinka ‘Hopeful’ To Get Jarred Vanderbilt Back Without Needing Surgery
Jarred Vanderbilt, Lakers
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a long and difficult season for Los Angeles Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt. After signing a four-year contract extension with general manager Rob Pelinka this offseason, the injury bug has hit the defensive-minded forward.

He missed the first 20 games of the season with left heel bursitis, then just as he was fully getting into the swing of the Lakers rotation, suffered another injury.

This time, it is a mid-foot sprain in his right foot. The Lakers announced that Vanderbilt would be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks, but with the season already 54 games in, it’s very possible that he is unable to make a return. That certainly qualifies this as a lost season for Vanderbilt, who has played only 29 games.

Pelinka, though, remains more hopeful for Vanderbilt. The Lakers general mananger believes that Vanderbilt can return at some point this season under the belief that his mid-foot sprain will not require surgery.

“Until an injury is healed and the player is back, you’re kind of always in the evaluation process of figuring out what it’s going to take to get a player healthy and back on the court. I would just say we’re hopeful we can get Jarred back healthy and without surgery. But you never know. Time will tell, but that’s certainly our hope.”

Part of the reason the Lakers may not have clarity on whether or not Vanderbilt needs surgery is because of the nature of sprains. Oftentimes, the severity of a sprain cannot be determined until the swelling surrounding the injury goes away. For now, they can only tell that Vanderbilt has some tearing of muscles and/or ligaments in his foot but not exactly how severe it is.

It’s possible that at the 3-4 week evaluation, it’s revealed that the sprain was not as bad as originally thought and he can gear up toward a return at that time. But it’s also possible that when the swelling dies down, more tearing is revealed and surgery may be required.

But clearly, the Lakers medical staff has given Pelinka some reason for hope that Vanderbilt can return in 2023-24. It would be a massive boost for the Lakers, who desperately need his elite perimeter defense.

Rob Pelinka discusses trade deadline conversation with Lakers star LeBron James

The Lakers’ inactivity at the deadline also came as a bit of a surprise since LeBron James sent out a tweet a week earlier with an hourglass emoji, seemingly stating his frustration at the Lakers’ struggles and that time was approaching for a change to be made.

But Pelinka has witnessed the opposite in his conversations with LeBron, noting that the Lakers star is focused on bringing the best out of his teammates.

“The last conversation I had with him was that he was focused on the guys in the locker room and making them the best players and teammates they could be,” Pelinka said. “I think he said after our last game, ‘I love these guys.’ He knows as our leader and our captain, building those guys up and getting the best versions of themselves is going to be important to the run we make. So I’m excited to see that unfold.”

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