The Los Angeles Lakers are about to be made whole once again now that power forward Larry Nance Jr. is likely to return on Monday night against the Clippers. Nance has been out of action since breaking a bone in his hand against the Portland Trailblazers on Nov. 2, and was projected to miss four to six weeks.
Assuming he takes the court Monday night, it would have been just over three weeks since suffering the injury. In Nance’s absence, the Lakers have turned to Kyle Kuzma as the starting power forward.
He’s responded to play as well as any rookie this season, and that’s not lost on Nance. “Kuz has been playing awesome,” he said after practice. Nance added he’s not concerned over how head coach Luke Walton may utilize both forwards.
“Like I said before, that’s Luke’s decision. Like I said before, Kuz is my guy. So whether he starts, I start, it doesn’t matter,” Nance said.
“It’s not going to cause any kind of rift. I’m not going to be upset about it or anything like that. It’s just something that he’s competing for, I’m competing for, and whatever Luke decides is whatever helps us win. I think that’s the page we’re both on.
“I’d use me where [Walton] thinks it would help. If that’s with the first unit, great. If that’s with the second unit, great. If that’s for the first little bit if these guys are rolling, let them roll. I’ll sit and watch and be the best teammate ever. Wherever he thinks he can best use me at, I’ll be happy to play.”
Walton indicated Nance was likely to immediately reclaim his spot in the starting lineup. This season’s Lakers have developed an identity as a defensive team, and chemistry can play a big role in success or failure on that end of the floor.
All five players have to communicate and have a sense of where everyone else on the floor is, working in concert to prevent their opponent from getting a good look. With that being the case, it may simply come down to whoever fits best in the first and second unit rather than which one of Kuzma or Nance is playing the best basketball.
For the moment, it appears that it will indeed be Nance sliding back into the starting five, which will allow Kuzma to take over his previous role as a scorer off the bench.
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