Nance Returns to Practice, Targets Monday's Game
As he expected, Larry Nance Jr. beat his timetable for his return from a fractured left hand.
After suffering his injury against Portland on Nov. 2, Nance underwent surgery and was told he would need 4-6 weeks before playing his next game.
“Once they said 4-6 weeks, that wasn’t my plan,” Nance said.
Nance — who was “pulling and begging” for a 2 1/2-week recovery period — is ahead of schedule, as he was a full participant in Saturday’s practice and is expected to return for Monday’s game against the LA Clippers.
The third-year pro was breaking out as the team’s starting power forward, averaging 10.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals in eight games, while ranking among the NBA’s leaders in field goal percentage (61.4).
Though the Lakers went 3-5 with Nance in the lineup and 5-6 without him, head coach Luke Walton felt that the team was missing production on the boards and defensively.
“I think our rebounding’s gone down,” Walton said. “Just our versatility at that four spot we like to play: him being able to defend multiple positions.”
Larry Nance Jr. was a full participant in practice today. Monday’s game is his target to return. pic.twitter.com/n6dppgvWtC— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 25, 2017
In Nance’s stead, rookie Kyle Kuzma has started with considerable success. Kuzma is averaging 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in the opening lineup, much to the delight of Nance.
“Kuz is my guy,” Nance said. “Whether he starts, I start — it doesn’t matter. It’s not gonna cause any rift.
“I’m not gonna be upset about it or anything like that. It’s something that he’s competing for (and) I’m competing for.”
As expected, the Lakers have been slightly better offensively with Kuzma starting, and slightly better defensively with Nance starting.
Nance — who will wear a wrap on his hand in his return — does most of his scoring around the hoop (30-of-34 in the restricted area this year). Kuzma is also great attacking the rim (63-of-94), but mixes in plenty of shooting as well — hitting 38.8 percent on 3-pointers in the starting lineup.
Walton will have two days to decide who starts the Lakers’ next game. Currently, he is leaning toward having Nance return to the starting five.
“If he’s good to go and cleared and ready, I don’t see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup,” Walton said.