PHILADELPHIA, PA—On Friday, Lakers coach Luke Walton smiled at positive injury news, as he passed on news that backup center Tarik Black's status had been upgraded to "questionable" for Friday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Walton explained that Black has an impact on the overall chemistry of the second unit, and the center's time on the sidelines due to an ankle sprain had hurt LA, especially on defense.
"We've got some small guards out there defensively," Walton explained. "(Black) blocks shots for us. He makes plays. He gets us out running. He dives to the basket hard, so if (opponents) decide to double or they miss their rotations, we get some easy looks. He hits the offensive glass pretty hard and gets us second, third looks."
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From early in the preseason, Walton designated a second-unit core of Larry Nance Jr., Brandon Ingram and Black. While Walton toyed with the idea of starting Jordan Clarkson or Lou Williams, the trio of forwards stayed steady with the second unit until injuries finally forced Ingram into the starting rotation.
"They're three of our more active defenders," Walton spoke about the second unit combination of Nance, Ingram and Black. "We get multiple defenders that can guard multiple positions. You have the versatility to do switching and they can cover up for other players and rebound and run."
Lakers shootaround in Philly wrapping up. Tarik Black is "questionable" to play tonight. Jordan Clarkson is "probable" to find a shirt. pic.twitter.com/jGNO5IGPkw — Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) December 16, 2016
Though Walton seemed excited about Black's progress, he cautioned that Black would play a limited role if he is passed fit. The coach even hinted that he may hold Black out regardless of whether the backup center has the green light from the training staff. Black went through the entire practice on Thursday, but Walton mentioned that he noticed a bit of a limp on the 24-year-old.
"If he does play, it won't be a ton," Walton said.
Entering Friday night's game in Philadelphia, Black has missed five games due to the ankle sprain. Even if he does not take part on Friday, Black appears close to a return.