Way back in November, as the Lakers continued to provide zero clarity on how Kendrick Nunn was progressing from his bone bruise even after he had long exceeded his original timeline and whispers mounted publicly and privately that he wasn’t really anywhere close to a return, I wrote that “it’s nearly time for the Lakers to start considering anything Nunn does eventually give them a bonus, not an expectation.”
It seems that — several false starts and setbacks later — that the Lakers have finally admitted that long-apparent inevitability, as Chris Haynes of TNT reported on the network’s Tuesday broadcast of Lakers vs. Mavericks that Nunn is not coming back this season.
“Kendrick Nunn — who hasn’t played a game all season due to a bone bruise in his knee — has an MRI scheduled later this week, but sources relay he is expected to sit out the remainder of the season to continue rehabbing.”
This is not really a surprise to anyone paying attention. Given that the Lakers only have seven games left in their season and the most recent update on Nunn was head coach Frank Vogel replying “good question” when asked why the team hadn’t ruled him out for the year yet, a return to the floor from him would have been genuinely, jaw-droppingly shocking.
Nunn has an approximately $5.3 million player option for next season, and given that his season-long absence likely led to a complete evaporation of any market for him in a trade or free agency, him opting into that deal and returning next year would seem to be a near certainty. So we’ll see what he can give the Lakers during the 2022-23 campaign, and if we ever get any detailed answers on what led this bone bruise to be so severe for him.
Haynes also provided the latest updates on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom were ruled out of Tuesday’s game with an ankle sprain and mid-foot sprain, respectively.
“Sources say he (LeBron) is still expected to miss Thursday’s game in Salt Lake City. As for Anthony Davis, if there are no setbacks, sources say the target return dates are either Friday at home against New Orleans, or Sunday when Denver comes to visit.”
You can watch Haynes’ full update below.
Report from @ChrisBHaynes— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) March 29, 2022
-LeBron expected to miss Thu vs. Jazz
-AD's target return is Fri vs. Pels or Sun. vs Nuggets
-Nunn has MRI later this week, but expected to sit out remainder of season pic.twitter.com/vXDSeWGtLw
If James and Davis really are out until Friday at the earliest, that means that the Lakers could have some real ground to make up in the race for the final play-in spot. After their loss to the Dallas Mavericks, they’re half a game behind the Spurs for 10th in the West, and have to finish at least one game ahead of them to make the play-in because the Spurs own the relevant tiebreakers. Their schedule is also much easier.
So while the Spurs will not be favored in their next game against the Grizzlies — who are incentivized to beat San Antonio and keep the Lakers in the play-in to have a better chance at getting L.A.’s draft pick — the Lakers without James and Davis can’t really be expected to beat any team in the NBA other than maybe the blatantly tanking Portland Trail Blazers. And even that would probably be dicey. So if the two stars continue to experience delays to their returns, this season could be even more cooked than it already appeared.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.