Kyle Kuzma has been one of the most important players for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. The rookie forward has led the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game, and is also one of their biggest minutes sponges, ranking fourth in minutes per game with 31.1.
Kuzma is also the first player in NBA history to record 330 points and 120 rebounds while making 30 3-pointers in the first 20 games of his NBA career, and his success made him the second Laker ever to earn the NBA’s Rookie of the Month honors.
Those factors and more meant that the Lakers’ felt Kuzma’s absence when he missed their loss to the Golden State Warriors, because of back spasms.
There was a chance he could have missed their game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, but returned to action after a successful practice in which his level of activity was higher than what the Lakers initially planned for.
Kuzma told reporters after Saturday’s loss that he was motivated to return and is near 100 percent health, as seen on Spectrum SportsNet:
“I felt good, I’m getting to 100 percent. I didn’t really want to sit out too many games, I don’t really like being on the bench. A little [tightness], but it’s all good.”
Whatever ill effects Kuzma was feeling from his back injury, they weren’t really evident in his return to the lineup. Kuzma scored 13 points and snatched 10 rebounds while shooting 5-of-13 from the floor in 27 minutes in his first game back.
While the effort was far from his best during what has been a standout rookie season, it showed at least some of the value the Lakers get from not having to give Kuzma’s minutes to a lesser player.
Kuzma’s MRI on his back came back negative, meaning that this probably won’t be a serious, career-affecting issue. The Lakers will just have to monitor his health as the season goes along, but given his speedy return to the court it seems unlikely he’ll miss much more time with this specific malady.
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