February 27, 2024

It had been almost two months since Jarred Vanderbilt played in a basketball game, his body having betrayed him during the preseason, bursitis in his left heel keeping him sidelined and unable to help the Lakers.

Vanderbilt, one of the Lakers’ most versatile and active defenders, finally got on the court Saturday night, his first time playing since he was injured Oct. 7 during a preseason game in San Francisco against the Golden State Warriors.

He played 13 minutes and 41 seconds during the Lakers’ 107-97 win over the Houston Rockets at Crypto.com Arena.

“It felt good to be back out there with my teammates,” Vanderbilt said. “Any time you can get back on the court, it’s always a good feeling. It was good.”

Vanderbilt didn’t score, missing his two shots. But he had four rebounds, one assist and was active on defense.

Of course, Vanderbilt is known for his defense, and that was the primary reason the Lakers signed him to a four-year, $48-million contract extension after acquiring the veteran forward near the trade deadline.

He was not trying to rush back from the injury. He wanted to make sure his body was ready to play.

“Basically just trying to take care of the injury and then building it back up efficiently and smart,” Vanderbilt said. “I didn’t want to get back out there too fast. So that was part of the ramp-up, kind of slowly going through progressions: two versus two, three versus three and then some five-on-five. That’s pretty much it.”

Cam Reddish displays some fire

Lakers coach Darvin Ham described Cam Reddish as a “laid-back dude.”

Yet there were moments against the Rockets when Reddish was not that easy-going player.

He flexed and yelled when he was fouled while scoring.

Then he was hit with a technical foul after exchanging words with Houston’s Tari Eason.

As Reddish stood behind the three-point line waiting for the free throw to be shot, Eason tried to walk toward him. Reddish didn’t budge or blink.

Players got between the two and it didn’t escalate.

“But he has a toughness to him, a quiet toughness,” Ham said. “I like him being aggressive and assertive. He showed that tonight. Some of the plays he made, that steal he got and kept alive and getting an and-one. I want him passionate about the game.”

Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell passes to teammate Anthony Davis around the defense of Rockets center Alperen Sengun.

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) passes to teammate Anthony Davis (3) around the defense of Rockets center Alperen Sengun during their game Saturday night at Crypto.com Arena.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Reddish missed the previous game at Oklahoma City because of right groin soreness.

But he was back in the lineup against the Rockets. He played 24 1/2 minutes and had 11 points, five rebounds and one blocked shot.

And he was very good on defense, starting with his assignment on Rockets point guard Fred Van Vleet.

Cam is great. Cam is great. We missed him a lot in the OKC game and he’s just great,” LeBron James said. “He has a knack for just being around the ball, getting deflections. I guarantee in the minutes that he’s played, he’s probably one of the league leaders in deflections, steals. Anything around the ball, he’s just really good.”

Rui Hachimura hopeful to play Tuesday

The “hope” now, Ham said, is that Rui Hachimura will be able to play Tuesday night when the Lakers play the Phoenix Suns at home in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s in-season tournament.

He missed the last four games after having surgery to repair a nasal fracture that he sustained during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 22.

He was active for Saturday night’s game against the Rockets, but Hachimura, who has been fitted to play with a mask, did not play.

“He went through his pre-game workout and still was a little iffy,” Ham said. “Our players’ health is our top priority, and the doctors did clear him. But still getting hit on the bridge of your nose, having to wear a mask.

“Again, he wasn’t with us for a week. He was limited on what he could do on the court and whatnot. So, just coming off that nose surgery, we felt it was best just to be proactive, to be precautionary, so that’s where we landed.”

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