On Thursday, head coach Luke Walton said that he considered Larry Nance Jr. “questionable” to return from injury in Friday’s game — for just a few minutes until the training staff ruled him out.
Now — with Nance set to play on Sunday for the first time since suffering a bone bruise on his left knee one month ago — the power forward quipped at Saturday’s practice, “Am I listed as questionable again for 15 seconds or what?”
Walton said that Nance will play, but on a minutes restriction and likely for only about 4-6 minutes at a time.
“We’re not gonna play him big minutes at all, no matter how the game’s going,” Walton said. “Just to get him out on the court there a little bit will be good for the team.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers still had not received the results from D’Angelo Russell’s MRI to determine the severity of the mild MCL sprain in his right knee and strained right calf — both of which were suffered just a minute into Friday’s win over Indiana.
Walton said that Jose Calderon will likely start in Russell’s place if he misses time, but that he could get “creative” with the opening lineup considering how Dallas plays big guards and wings.
More pressingly, Walton hopes that Russell — who missed three weeks this season due to a sore left knee — is able to stay positive if he does have to sit out again.
“I’ve had that experience before and it can weigh heavy on you,” said Walton, whose playing career was plagued by back injuries. “Hopefully this one isn’t too bad, but we’ll do what we can do as a team and a staff to make sure that we keep his spirits as high as possible.”
Ingram Impresses Luke and Lute
Walton also said that Luol Deng was a full participant in practice after missing the last two games due to a sprained right wrist.
Deng’s replacement at starting small forward impressed both Walton and his mentor in Friday’s game, as Brandon Ingram finished the night with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
After watching game tape, Walton said that he feels the second-overall pick is further along than expected and that Friday was “the best game he’s played” since joining the Lakers.
“He was even better than I thought when I left (Staples Center),” Walton said. “He made a lot of really winning-style plays for us. I’m talking about the way he was on the ground for loose balls, the way he was getting deflections — he was coming over from the weak side and stealing pocket passes that they had been hurting us with.”
Walton’s college coach — University of Arizona legend Lute Olson — was in attendance and taken aback by Ingram’s performance.
Walton wanted Ingram to hear Olson’s praise — but didn’t anticipate that the 19-year-old wouldn’t know who he was before being introduced.
“The first thing (Olson) told me is, ‘Wow, that Brandon Ingram kid is gonna be something special,’” Walton said. “Coach Olson’s coached a lot of really special players. So I thought it would be good for Brandon to hear that.
“But I guess it wasn’t because it might as well have been some crazy old man telling him he’s gonna be good at basketball.”