After taking a couple of days off to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, the Los Angeles Lakers returned to practice in preparation for Monday’s contest against the Los Angeles Clippers. The big news for that game is the likely return of power forward Larry Nance Jr.
“I think he’ll be good to go on Monday,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “Obviously, we’ll see how he feels later today and [Sunday]. We’ll get another practice in. I would anticipate he plays Monday.”
The team’s starter at power forward when the season began, Nance suffered a fractured bone in his hand and was expected to miss four to six weeks. However, Nance has diligently worked to return and now is on track to step on the court less than one month after being put on the shelf.
“I felt great. Full contact everything, it was probably one of our longest, hardest practices of the year, and I felt great,” he said Saturday. “Did every drill and competed in every minute of it.
“My hand is fine. It doesn’t hurt. There’s nothing that can happen to it now. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Nance added he was pushing to return just over two weeks after suffering the hand injury, and his only reservation is with dunking the ball. Walton noted the Lakers were deliberate and cautious with mapping out Nance’s recovery.
Along with extra time for his hand to heal, it also allowed for the 24-year-old to get additional practices under his belt. “If he’s good to go, cleared and ready (for Monday), I don’t see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup,” Walton said.
The Lakers turned to rookie Kyle Kuzma in Nance’s absence, and he excelled in the starting role. While Walton indicated he will return to the lineup used prior to the injury, Nance said he doesn’t have a preference.
“Like I said before, Kuz is my guy. So whether he starts, I start, it doesn’t matter,” Nance explained. “It’s not going to cause any kind of rift. I’m not going to be upset about it or anything like that.”
Kuzma brings much-needed offense and floor spacing that Nance doesn’t provide. What Nance does bring is excellent defense, energy, and all the intangibles and that can fit with any lineup.
Whether starting or coming off the bench, Nance will definitely look to continue to build on his career year. Nance was averaging 10.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 61.4 percent shooting before the injury, all of which are career highs.
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