The Los Angeles Lakers remained committed to keeping Kyle Kuzma out of their trade with the New Orleans Pelicans this past summer, but when the third-year forward will get to take the court with Anthony Davis and LeBron James is unclear.
Kuzma has been sidelined by a stress reaction in his left foot that ended his time with USA Basketball. He underwent an MRI when the Lakers returned from China, was cleared for non-contact basketball activities and deemed day-to-day.
That has entailed dribbling and shooting drills with assistant coach and player development guru Phil Handy during and after recent practices. “He’s doing a lot of 1-on-0 shooting, increasing his load and intensity of his movements,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said Thursday.
“We’re just trying to work on those types of progressions, but he’s still all no-contact right now.”
Although Kuzma hasn’t yet joined the Lakers in their practices, he drew praise from Vogel. “He’s gone above and beyond with what I call the ‘Paul George workouts,’” Vogel said.
“When Paul was out with a broken leg all year, he did a lot of ballhandling in a chair, stationary shooting, shooting out of a chair. Kyle’s done a lot of that over the last — whatever it’s been — six weeks or so. Now that he’s able to move like a basketball player, he’s really focused on his normal skill work.”
With the Lakers set to tip off the 2019-20 NBA season on Tuesday, there remains a remote possibility that Kuzma is available by the season opener. He would first need to clear the hurdle of being introduced to contact in practice, which in theory could come this weekend.
“We’ll have a full practice Sunday and a light practice Monday to get ready for Tuesday,” Vogel explained. “I’d have to talk to the medical team. I think there’s a possibility (for Kuzma to play Tuesday) but it’s probably unlikely.”
The Lakers have regularly erred on the side of caution with a player returning from injury and presumably will carry forward with that approach. The team exercised its option on Kuzma for the 2020-21 season.
Whenever the 24-year-old takes the court he’ll do so as a Puma athlete after breaking into the NBA with an endorsement contract with Nike.