The Los Angeles Lakers had a promising 2019 NBA preseason as head coach Frank Vogel looks to make his mark on them despite missing a key piece in Kyle Kuzma.
Kuzma is the last of the team’s young core remaining and their best chance at a third All-Star player on the roster. Unfortunately, he suffered a stress reaction in his foot while playing for Team USA and has just started practicing again.
Kuzma won’t be available for the team’s 2019-20 NBA season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, but he seems to be inching closer to a return and Vogel is looking forward to that.
The Lakers head coach called Kuzma the team’s third best player and said he’ll have some good problems once he makes his return, according to Tania Ganguli of Los Angeles Times:
“He’s probably our third-best player, so to add him to the mix, we can go a lot of different directions,” Vogel said. “It probably gets more enticing to play Anthony at the 5 with Kuz out there and LeBron and a couple guards. But our 5s have been great. So, we’ll have what we like to call good problems when he’s back to full activity.”
Figuring out those rotations and lineups will be very important for Vogel. As he said, it will be very enticing to play that smaller lineup with Davis, Kuzma, and LeBron James in the frontcourt, but the team’s centers (especially JaVale McGee) has looked excellent next to Davis and brings a lot to the table as well.
But that isn’t the focus in regards to Kuzma as Vogel simply wants to slowly bring him up to speed before thinking about anything else:
“Right now we’re just talking about ramping up his activity and we’re not going to look past two days from now,” Vogel said. “We’re going to try to increase his workload and activities this week and we’ll see where we’re at.”
The last thing the Lakers can afford is for Kuzma to be out for a long period of time. Missing a week or two at the beginning of the season is far better than a couple of months later on. If Kuzma truly is the team’s third-best player, the Lakers will need him for the long haul.
Kuzma has the talent and mindset to succeed and all eyes will be on him once he does return to the floor. But getting him healthy is top priority and Vogel is right.