Kyle Kuzma has missed the entirety of the preseason with a stress reaction he suffered while he was with Team USA in August. While Kuzma has been cleared for non-contact practice, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be making his return for the Los Angeles Lakers within the week.
Not only will Kuzma sit out of Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors, but Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters after practice on Thursday that it’s “probably unlikely” that Kuzma will participate in the team’s full-contact practice on Sunday, putting him in doubt for Tuesday’s regular opener against the LA Clippers, because the Lakers generally want to see a player do at least one practice with contact before throwing them into a game.
Vogel said that the Lakers might have a late practice on Monday with some contact, but if Kuzma is not cleared for contact on Sunday, it’s safe to assume he won’t be ready to play on Tuesday. If Kuzma does miss the Lakers’ regular season opener, Vogel said that the team has full-contact practice scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday.
Until Kuzma gets the green light from the medical staff to resume full-contact basketball activities, he’ll continue to work with Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy. Vogel said Kuzma has been able to increase his workload and intensity, he just hasn’t been able to go up against anyone yet:
”He’s gone above and beyond what I call ‘the Paul George workouts.’ When Paul was out with a broken leg all year and he did a lot of ballhandling in a chair. Stationary shooting. Shooting in a chair. Kyle has done a ton of that over the last six weeks or so. And now that he’s able to move like an NBA basketball player, it’s really focused on just the normal skill work.”
Here’s a look at some of the things Kuzma has been doing before games and at practice:
Here is some video of what Kyle Kuzma is doing pregame. He may not be playing, but he is still working hard with assistant coach Phil Handy pic.twitter.com/0fnBdxKWax— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 17, 2019
Here is some of the individual drill work Kuzma is doing with Phil Handy as he continues to do non-contact stuff pic.twitter.com/aBseVL58Zk— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 16, 2019
With a five-game sample size, there’s a clear need for someone that can create their own shot and make plays for others in the Lakers’ second unit. While ideally Andre Iguodala would be the guy for Los Angeles, Kuzma is a viable option too.
That being said, the Lakers are expected to be in a good enough position to make it through the first few weeks of the regular season without Kuzma if they have to, with Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Jared Dudley at Vogel’s disposal.
As much as Kuzma would help the Lakers, it’s better to have him sidelined for a week or two as opposed to months with a potentially worse injury to his foot if he’s rushed back too early. Patience is the sensible approach here.