As Kendrick Nunn gets closer and closer to making his regular season debut with the purple and gold, the Lakers are inching closer and closer to getting their full team on the court for the first time as well. Nunn has been the consistent holdout throughout the season, as a bone bruise in his knee has kept him sidelined the entirety of the regular season.
However, that hasn’t changed the role that the coaching staff envisions for him, as head coach Frank Vogel made clear when he was asked if he had an idea of what his rotation would look like once Nunn returns.
“Yeah, I have an idea, but it still really is all to still be played out,” Vogel said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. “Kendrick is going to get a ton of minutes when he gets back healthy. It’s going to be at the expense of somebody else, at least for the time being, to see how he fits in our system alongside our stars, and all that stuff will play out. So I have a general idea, but all of that is still to be determined.”
Nunn’s injury came so early in the preseason that his only run alongside the Lakers Big Three of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis came during training camp. On paper, his ability to be both a ballhandler and three-level scorer makes him a great complement to the team’s superstars, but seeing it on the court will be key in the near future after he’s missed months and has yet to play in a game that counts in Los Angeles.
Fortunately, it sounds like Nunn’s return is close. Last week, Vogel noted that Nunn is “getting closer” to a return, a far cry from the “a ways away” that he repeated multiple times in previous months when asked about a return date or timeline.
The Lakers have generally taken their time in bringing back players from injuries, both this season and in recent years with Trevor Ariza’s sudden debut amidst a COVID outbreak for the Lakers being the exception. So Nunn will be brought along gradually, but he has started been doing on-court work pregame, which Ariza made a habit of as well during his rehab process.
The video we’ve all been waiting for, Kendrick Nunn’s pregame on-court work pic.twitter.com/VMcOefdCjH— Cooper Halpern (@CooperHalpern) January 5, 2022
Nunn’s return could provide the Lakers another more spark in the backcourt and a valuable weapon on both ends of the floor, and with the team committing to small ball as well, Nunn’s ability to score at every level will be valuable.
It will take time on the court for him to shake off the rust, get his wind back and get back into rhythm. But that the Lakers intend on playing him big minutes once he’s fully healthy is a sign of just how big the expectations remain for him this season.