While it had appeared Kendrick Nunn was progressing toward a return, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel dropped another gut punch on Tuesday by revealing the guard would still likely not debut for at least another month.
Speaking to the media ahead of the team’s game against the Bucks on Tuesday, Vogel’s latest update on Nunn was not a particularly encouraging one.
“Anything is possible,” Vogel said when asked if it was within the realm of possibility that Nunn wouldn’t play this season. “But we are hopeful that he plays for us this year. He did have a follow-up exam recently... and we are able to say now that he’s likely not going to be able to be back before March. But we’re still optimistic that he plays for us this year.”
Nunn notably had his setback in mid-January, but has since not had any further ones. In that instance, Nunn was forced to stop ramping up toward a return to play and instead restart the process again weeks later.
Signs, though, had seemed encouraging he would play. After a recent workout, Nunn had told Vogel he “felt good,” which felt like a step in the right direction. And while it may still have been, it simply wasn’t as big of a step forward as once hoped.
While Vogel did say on Tuesday that nothing new was found on the recent follow-up exam, it’s another discouraging step for the Lakers and Nunn on what is increasingly feeling like a lost season.
Signed with the team’s taxpayer midlevel exception, the Lakers had high hopes for what Nunn could bring to the team. Now, it increasingly feels like that production will be in theory rather than in practice.
“Obviously LeBron is a unique player, so calling him any type of position is... he plays all positions. He’s a ball handler,” Vogel said when asked what he envisioned as Nunn’s role before the season. “But Kendrick coming in and playing backup point guard to Russ in terms of guarding the other team’s smallest player, handling some and bringing it up in the open court when Bron is playing in the second unit, but also just being a backside shooter and playmaker, similar to what Malik Monk has given us in a similar type of role and seeing the two of those guys together out there.
“Bron, Russ, they can get the ball to Kendrick in the pick and roll game or off of pin-downs. He’s a dynamic basket-attacker, but also when they have the ball, he’s a knockdown 3-point shooter as well. So he’s one of those guys that can really play with and without the basketball, and we did have him penciled in as a main rotational guy.”
The Lakers have gotten by without Nunn, getting an unexpected level of contribution from Malik Monk and a simply unexpected contribution from Austin Reaves in the backcourt. Both have alleviated some of the lost production from Nunn’s absence this season, but that doesn’t make his loss any less impactful.
It’s been a frustrating situation for all parties involved. The only quick conclusion that may come is if Nunn is traded in the coming days ahead of the deadline. Outside of that, it’s a situation that will continue to be a sore spot for both parties for the remainder of this season.
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