With aspirations of repeating as NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly discovered health would not be on its side.
Though the Lakers held a comfortable spot as a top-two seed in the Western Conference through the first 25 games, injuries began sneaking up — and it dealt a devastating blow.
Anthony Davis went down with a calf strain in mid-February. He would proceed to miss 36 games in a condensed 72-game schedule. LeBron James sprained his ankle in late March — though a player dove on his ankle — and missed 27 games during the second half of the season.
More players dealt with relatively minor injuries throughout the regular season, but it added up. Then in the first round of the playoffs, injuries cost L.A. the chance to advance to the second round.
Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso all notably missed time with respective lower-leg injuries during the final three games of the series.
All the woes have led Los Angeles to seek a new head athletic trainer after the former head, Nina Hsieh, didn’t have her contract renewed, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“Nina Hsieh, promoted to head trainer two years ago, did not have her contract renewed, sources told ESPN.
Hsieh worked for the franchise for more than a decade, beginning as the head athletic trainer in charge of the health and wellness program for the Lakers’ G League affiliate, then working as an assistant trainer for the Lakers, before taking over as head athletic trainer for the purple and gold in August 2019.
She became the first woman to be the head athletic trainer on a championship team in American major professional sports history when L.A. won the title in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, last October.”
The Lakers underwent this same process in 2019 after moving on from former head Marco Nunez. Los Angeles dealt with various injuries that season, notably to James and Lonzo Ball, and it culminated in missing the playoffs.
But moving on from Hsieh won’t be the last change L.A. makes, via McMenamin:
“More changes are expected as the team is in the process of restructuring its approach to player health, sources told ESPN.”
A healthy Lakers squad can compete with any team, but health prevented L.A. from achieving its goals. Only time will tell how the new moves pan out.