After Brandon Ingram missed the past two games, the Los Angeles Lakers anticipate he will return Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. The team will still be without Lonzo Ball, who is sidelined by a sprained left shoulder.
With Ball and Ingram both having missed time, it’s put further responsibility on Kyle Kuzma. He responded by scoring 31 points, the most on Christmas by a Lakers rookie. While the trio has been key to the team’s success, Lakers head coach Luke Walton would prefer to lighten their workload.
“They’ve played more minutes than I wanted to play them going into the season,” Walton said. “But they’ve done a really nice job of not showing fatigue, yet at least. Obviously, the dog days are coming. This next stretch gets tough for everybody in the NBA.”
Although right quadriceps contusion and left quadriceps tendinitis forced Ingram to miss time, he professed to be healthy enough to play through the minor injuries.
His 34.8 minutes per game are tied with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the team high.
If Walton were to scale back playing time for his young players, it would mean expanded opportunities for others on the roster. “Again, it’s next man up. Julius and Larry get more opportunities at the four. But at the same time, we’re trying to play a certain way and win these games,” Walton explained.
“If Kuzma looks healthy, it’s tough to get him out of there. It really is. The way he’s playing, it’s hard to get him off the floor. I would like to ideally play him less than he’s playing right now as a rookie. Just to keep him healthy throughout the whole season.”
Ball is third on the team at 33.9 minutes per game, while Kuzma is fourth with 31.9 minutes. Although Walton specifically mentioned Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. as potentially seeing expanded playing time, there’s little to suggest they’d be the benefactors.
Randle is averaging just 22.3 minutes per game, and Nance is at an even 22. In particular with Randle, his role as a backup center has at times come with sporadic playing time. He’s appeared frustrated by the situation but recently said he simply had to focus on contributing when given an opportunity.
While Walton has a preference to reduce playing time for Ball, Ingram and Kuzma, he’s been impressed by their respective adjustments to life in the NBA. “I think they’ve done a really nice job of experiencing what it’s like to play big minutes in games, four times a week,” Walton said.
“And being mature young men, taking that and translating it to how do they rest at night? How do they come in early to get treatment? How do they go into the weight room? Not all three of them were into all that stuff when they got here. They’re not great at it yet, but they’re definitely better at it than Day 1.”
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