After acquiring Russell Westbrook via trade this offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers had just one bullet in the chamber with regard to signing free agents. That was their taxpayer mid-level exception, and they chose to give it to former Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn.
Nunn is a quality scorer and was a big part of the 2020 Heat run to the NBA Finals in the Walt Disney World bubble. The Lakers were hopeful he could provide that same scoring punch in L.A. while being a serviceable defender. Instead, Nunn has yet to play a regular-season game for the Lakers.
Nunn suffered a bone bruise in his knee during the preseason that originally looked to be a 2-3 week recovery period. That quickly turned into three months, but the Lakers remained hopeful that they would get Nunn back in the lineup in a high-impact role.
Reportedly, Nunn could be gearing up to make his return, and he could be on the floor for L.A. by the end of this month, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
The Lakers are expected to release an injury update on Davis on Friday, which will mark four weeks since he hurt it when Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels fell into him. Nunn, who has missed the entire season, is expected to be back in the lineup before the end of January, sources told ESPN.
As always, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel took a more secretive approach when discussing Nunn’s status when asked if he practiced with the team on Tuesday.
“More individual work, getting closer but no timetable still,” Vogel said of the third year guard.
Vogel already hinted that Nunn will be playing a major role for the team when he returns. His abilities as an efficient scorer could pair well with some of the team’s defensive-minded lineups, and he could fit seamlessly alongside Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis.
On the flip side, the Lakers would also like to get Nunn back in the lineup so opposing teams can see him in action. Outside of Talen Horton-Tucker, Nunn is the player most likely to get traded at this year’s trade deadline, as his $5 million salary would be necessary for salary matching in most deals.
Regardless, the Lakers need to have Nunn back on the floor. In one way or another, Nunn could play a huge role in getting L.A. to where they want to be.
James assesses Lakers at midway point of season
James referenced the injuries to Davis and Nunn when giving an honest evaluation of the 21-20 Lakers at the exact halfway point of the 2021-22 NBA season.
“I feel like I have enough in the sense of who we have now. But I don’t have enough sense of who we still don’t have and we still don’t have our gun and that’s AD and how that changes our dynamic. Obviously, it improves our team right away, but how it changes our dynamic, also K. Nunn when he comes in and fits in.
“So we will see how we come together, as fast as we can come together once AD is back because he’s just such a big piece to our puzzle and we can’t ever say this is who we are until we get him.”
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