The Los Angeles Lakers announced that Kyle Kuzma will not play in the team’s regular season opener against the LA Clippers on Tuesday after not doing any contact work at practice on Sunday. Kuzma was cleared for non-contact basketball activities on Monday.
Kuzma didn’t suit up for the Lakers during the preseason because of a stress reaction he suffered while competing for a spot on Team USA’s FIBA Basketball World Cup roster in August. His status is still day-to-day.
Kuzma’s next opportunity to get a full-contact practice will either be Wednesday or Thursday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said after practice on Thursday — the days leading up to their “home” opener against the Utah Jazz (Tuesday’s game is a Clippers home game, but they share the same arena).
Kuzma — the Lakers’ second leading scorer last season — is expected to play a big role in his junior season, but until he’s ready to return, the team has just enough depth at forward between Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Jared Dudley to weather the storm. The Lakers could also painlessly call up their two-way player, Kostas Antetokounmpo, because the NBA G League season doesn’t start until Nov. 8.
The one thing they’ll miss in Kuzma’s absence is a secondary playmaker in the second unit. Kuzma showed growth on that end towards the tail end of last season and during his brief stint with USA Basketball. While his scoring will be a big help upon his return, his development as a playmaker is what’s going to separate him from the rest of the reserves.
Defense is obviously a big concern with Kuzma, but if he’s a multi-dimensional player on the offensive end, his shortcomings on the defensive end won’t stand out as much as they have in the past.
Let’s hope for good news on Kuzma front later in the week.