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Lakers vs. Nuggets Preview: Kyle Kuzma might be back, and hopefully for good

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The Lakers are hoping Kyle Kuzma can stay healthy and help the team in the (likely) absence of LeBron James.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

If all goes well between now and tip-off at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Kyle Kuzma will play his first game for the Los Angeles Lakers since Dec. 8.

Kuzma is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, (Update: He’s playing) and after practice on Saturday, he sounded pretty optimistic about his chances of playing (via Lakers.com):

“It’s exciting and fun just to get back out there with my teammates and be able to get back on the court... It’s always just refreshing and easy on the mind.”

Kuzma said he did “pretty much everything” without feeling any discomfort, and as long as he doesn’t wake up sore on Sunday morning, he’ll be good to go against the Nuggets. If Kuzma is even slightly bothered by his ankle, he likely won’t play because Lakers head coach Frank Vogel made it clear after practice on Saturday that he wants Kuzma to be 100% when he returns:

“Hopefully he can finally get integrated with this year’s team, ya know? He’s been set back with injuries. Every time he gets a little bit of momentum, he’s pulled back with an injury, so we just need to get him healthy and when he’s healthy, he’s a great player, and he’s going to really contribute to what we do on both ends of the floor.”

Vogel said Kuzma has been frustrated about not being able to play, but he’s hoping that the two weeks they’ve held Kuzma out will result in him being completely healthy going forward. For Kuzma, his health his priority, too:

“It’s just the nature of the beast. Some years you’re healthy, some years you have nagging injuries and unfortunately that’s just me this year, but there’s a lot more season left. That’s why it’s just important for me to feel like I’m healthy and confident out there playing at the best of my abilities.

“I feel like when I’m out there and I’m healthy, I’m playing my best basketball and I just want to get to that point. However long it takes, it’s all about just trying to get healthy.”

With LeBron James seeming more and more likely to (at least) miss this game, the Lakers will need Kuzma to be at his best and, most importantly, his healthiest.

Notes and Updates

  • LeBron James will miss the game against the Nuggets with a back injury, and according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, James is also dealing with a groin injury. This time last year, James suffered a groin injury that kept him sidelined for over a month.
  • Avery Bradley will not play with a minutes restriction against the Nuggets, and Vogel has considered putting him back into the starting lineup.
  • Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma are will both play, and Kuzma is on a minutes restriction of around 20 minutes.

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