The latest step for Ariza came on Monday when he took part in the live action part of practice, which included scrimmaging with the team. While his return isn’t evitable, it was a another figurative and literal step in the right direction for Ariza.
“He participated in live action for the first time, in scrimmage play,” head coach Frank Vogel said after practice. “He still looks like he has a ways to go to get his legs under him and all those types of things. It still feels a little bit weak for him. But not painful, if that makes sense. It’s going to take time for him to build strength in the ankle and, obviously, get his legs under him. But he participated in full scrimmage, yes.”
Vogel said that, despite the compactness of an NBA schedule, the team intends on building him up to as close as full strength as possible in practice before deploying him on the court in an actual game. After an extended layoff over the last week with just one game since last Tuesday, the Lakers go right back into the thick of the season with only one two-day break between Tuesday and Christmas Day.
On the other side, Nunn’s return not only isn’t imminent, it won’t be happening anytime soon at all. While it’s long been clear his timetable was much more long-term than someone like Ariza, Vogel at least put some form of a timeline on his return by stating it was unlikely he’d play before the calendar turns over to 2022.
“Probably not,” Vogel said. “But there’s no firm timeline on that. We’ll see. I would say probably not.”
Nunn was initially sidelined with a bone bruise in training camp that was only set to rule him out for weeks, not months. But with December being an unlikely return date based on Vogel’s statements Monday, Nunn will be sidelined at least two months heading into January of 2022.
As one of only a handful of Lakers not on a veteran’s minimum contract this season, Nunn had expectations of being an important piece of the team, a role he has been wholly unavailable to fill so far this year.
The silver lining is that with Ariza inching closer and closer to a return, Nunn will be the final player on the injury report still sidelined — knock on wood — and while that isn’t the ideal situation for the Lakers, it’s a far cry from where the team was in the early stages of the season.