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Lakers’ injury report keeps growing, as Kuzma, Gasol, Matthews all sit out against Nets

The longer the season goes, the longer it takes Frank Vogel to tick off the injury report.

The Lakers’ coach laid out the latest news just an hour before the Lakers’ tip against the Brooklyn Nets: Kyle Kuzma was out again with stiffness in his left calf, and Marc Gasol was out again with stiffness in his left hamstring. Less than an hour beforehand, the Lakers had another addition: Wes Matthews sat out with left hamstring tightness — and he was already replacing Kuzma in the starting lineup.

It meant more minutes would be doled out to fewer players — players who already had various ailments of their own.

Dennis Schröder had complained to media after Thursday’s game of an issue in one of his knees, then in the first half a fall on his tailbone left him running awkwardly up and down the court. A third-quarter ejection on a pair of technical fouls rendered all his ailments moot. Alex Caruso also played through left knee soreness.

At a certain point, Vogel could only shrug when asked how he and the Lakers’ training staff are trying to keep their dwindling healthy players intact.

“You do everything you can off the court or away from the games in terms of limited practice time, keeping them off their feet, actual recovery, all those types of things,” he said. “You don’t want anybody to get injured, you don’t want anybody to be overextended. We feel like those guys have been within minutes that they can reasonably play but we’ve had a couple of flare-ups. That’s part of asking guys to play bigger roles than they’re used to and it’s just something that we have to compete through.”

It’s been a common part of the NBA during the condensed season: The Lakers knew after All-Star break that they would have to play 35 games in 65 nights, a grueling stretch by the measure of most normal seasons. Playing so many games amid a pandemic has had an obvious impact. An incomplete list of stars who have missed significant time: Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, James Harden — not to mention the Lakers’ own titans LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The overextension of the remaining players is a big concern. Vogel said Gasol’s injury stemmed from playing nearly 28 minutes against the Toronto Raptors after Montrezl Harrell was ejected in the first quarter. The Lakers have intended to play Gasol in some lineups alongside Harrell — no dice the past two games.

The Lakers were hopeful that Kuzma would be able to play through stiffness in his left calf, but the training staff decided to hold him out one more game. It doesn’t help that a back-to-back against the Knicks and Hornets is forthcoming on Monday and Tuesday.

Asked about how the match-up between the Lakers and Nets might reflect on aspects of a potential playoff match-up between the two (which has been whispered about since Harden was traded to Brooklyn), Vogel said it was impossible to think that far ahead.

“My mindset is to try and win tonight’s game,” he said. “It’s really not anything more than that. We’re not looking down the road at what potential matchups could be. We got some guys on the court tonight that are going to go out there and try to get a W and there’s a whole gameplan and strategy centered around that.”

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