A daunting stretch in their schedule has taken its toll on the Los Angeles Lakers, with the likes of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez all suffering an injury within the past month.
In addition to Kuzma playing through a quad contusion, he’s appeared fatigue in recent games. No more was that evident than on Dec. 27 against the Memphis Grizzlies, when he shot just 4-for-24 and made only one of 11 attempts from behind the 3-point line.
That was also the night Kuzma sustained the quad contusion. But neither he nor Walton attributed the poor shooting night to fatigue or the relatively minor injury.
Kuzma has shot 35 percent or worse in each of the three of the past five games. It’s prompted the Lakers to consider a minutes restriction for their promising rookie.
“He’s not hurt right now, but it’s part of our job that we monitor and make sure he doesn’t get worn down and hurt himself with how hard that he plays,” Walton said. “We’ll keep an eye on it. See if he’s looking like he’s fatigued out there and monitor those minutes going forward.
“He’s just banged up. It’s an NBA season, he’s playing big minutes. Like I said, he plays extremely hard. He gets kneed, he hits the deck all game long. Anyone that’s playing as many minutes as him, on any team, is probably pretty banged up right now.”
Kuzma is fourth on the team with an average of 31.9 minutes per game, and so too is his 22.4 percent usage rate.
Kuzma’s 18 minutes played against the Minnesota Timberwolves on New Year’s Day, the second night of a back-to-back for the Lakers, was the first time he logged fewer than 30 minutes since playing 19 last Dec. 7. He played 28 in a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While the Lakers intend to be mindful of Kuzma’s workload, doing so presents a difficult proposition for the team. “It’s a fine line, because we like how hard he plays,” Walton said.
“We want to encourage everyone to play like that.”
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