After winning the title last season, the Los Angeles Lakers were unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in the first round this time around. While the Suns are a really good team, and might have won the series anyway, injuries played a big role in the Lakers' early exit.
In fact, injuries played a big role in the entire season for the Lakers, who played shorthanded for most of the final few months. As a result, the team is looking to make some changes with its medical staff and will not be renewing the contract of their head athletic trainer, according to a report from Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
The Los Angeles Lakers are in the market to hire a new head athletic trainer after injuries ravaged their 2020-21 season.
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 in August 2019.
More changes are expected as the team is in the process of restructuring its approach to player health, sources told ESPN.
With the Lakers up 2-1 on the Suns in the first round, Anthony Davis injured his groin and had to leave Game 4 early. He missed Game 5 and gave it a go in Game 6 before checking out after just a few minutes of action. The Lakers lost all three of those games, and the series.
Davis' groin problem was just the final straw on a brutal season in Los Angeles. The star forward also missed over two months with a calf injury, and played a career-low 36 games. Meanwhile, LeBron James was sidelined for over a month due to an ankle injury, and also played the fewest games of any season in his career at 45. Though he came back for the playoffs, he was never at 100 percent.
Those were the two most notable issues on the injury front, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso also dealt with problems in the playoffs. Over the course of the regular season, no one on the roster played the full 72 games.
Considering that the Lakers had the shortest offseason in NBA history, it's not surprising that players started to wear down. There was bad luck involved as well; no amount of rest or preparation could have helped LeBron when Solomon Hill fell into his leg. Still, even if some things weren't the training staff's fault, it's not surprising that the Lakers would want to go in another direction after such a rough season.