The Indiana Pacers announced that pop-and-stop scorer Jeremy Lamb tore the ACL in his left knee on Sunday and will be out for the rest of the season. The 27-year-old wing also tore his meniscus and sustained a lateral femoral condylar fracture.
Lamb suffered the injury after going up for a breakaway dunk in transition. He landed awkwardly and immediately grabbed the area behind his knee just below his hamstring.
“It’s definitely tough to see a guy that means so much to our team that plays such a big role go out like that,” said Malcolm Brogdon. “Just a good guy, man. You always want him to do well. He’s a great teammate. He’s a good player.”
After starting 42 games in place of Victor Oladipo, the buttery, smooth scorer with a propensity for leaky closeouts had only just begun to settle into his intended role off the bench. Although somewhat variable and not particularly apt to crash the glass, Lamb’s ability to attack from the elbows and create space for himself provided the Pacers with another scoring option against switches or when sets broke down.
Without his mid-range prowess, the Pacers — who’ve lost seven of their last nine games — will be able to fallback on the already well-developed chemistry of the once-usual bench lineup with Aaron Holiday at the two-guard, but they’ll be giving up size, unless they dust-off Edmond Sumner’s length, as well as experience.
On the season, Indiana’s second unit — featuring the Holiday brothers joined by T.J. McConnell, Doug McDermott, and Domantas Sabonis — has outscored opponents by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in 227 minutes played, which is one of strongest marks among bench/hybrid lineups in the league.
Hallmarked by swirling, free-flowing movement, Aaron offers that group more in the way of consistent floor spacing, but the injury will deprive them of a go-to source for shot creation when opponents neutralize their off-ball screening actions.
If, at some point, the Pacers have need to play more traditionally or are amenable to sliding Justin Holiday back to his more natural position at the wing, then JaKarr Sampson’s (intermittently reckless) energy looms as an option as well.
With only 25 games left to play, Nate McMillan may also eventually want to look at shrinking the rotation and staggering more of Brogdon’s minutes with the bench so as to get a better feel for his fit next to T.J. McConnell and/or Aaron Holiday. That said, with Brogdon and Oladipo both currently appearing like shells of themselves, a lot of this sort of periphery tinkering seems like a moot point in the absence of a silver bullet.
Even after suffering his knee injury last night, Jeremy Lamb stepped up and knocked down two free throws before leaving the court. Moving forward, the Pacers could stand to channel some of that resolve into finding a solution for what’s going on with their energy, effort, and connection in the aftermath of last night’s 46-point beat down.
Because, now, with Lamb out for the rest of the year, one thing is certain: Aside from 3.5 games at full strength, this roster is never going to be completely healthy this season.