The Lakers released an injury update via press release on Tuesday that stated both Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez were cleared to return to practice. However, since the Lakers did not actually practice on Tuesday and only have shootarounds on game days (like today), their availability vs. the Thunder was in question.
At Wednesday’s shootaround, Luke Walton gave the update and it has some good news:
Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma are available to play tonight. Lonzo Ball is out.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 3, 2018
Ball remaining out is not a surprise. The team noted that Ball’s shoulder is still a little sore, but that the plan is have him participate in Thursday’s practice and Friday’s shootaround with a reevaluation to come after that to determine his availability for Friday’s game. Hopefully he does play Friday since the team has really struggled in his absence.
Getting Lopez back, though, is a nice piece of news. I understand Lopez was not playing his best individual ball in the lead up to his injury, but he’s been a net positive on defense this year while the respect he receives from defenses (especially behind the arc) remains very useful for the Lakers offense.
It remains to be seen if Lopez will return to the starting lineup, so I will not speculate there, but having him back in the rotation at all should help the team on both sides of the ball.
As for Kuzma, the hope is that with Lopez returning the rookie PF can lessen his minutes load and be required to carry a lighter load offensively. Kuzma’s been banged up after banging his quad/knee in the past couple of games and he’s clearly been impacted by it. High minute counts have not helped the matter, so I hope that Lopez getting run at C can push Nance and, hopefully, Randle into some of those PF minutes to even out the rotation.
We’ll see how it goes against OKC, however.