Back in August Kyle Kuzma was the final cut for the USA National Team headed to China for the FIBA World Cup. At that time, Kuzma was reportedly dealing with ankle soreness from a sprain he’d suffered. Better safe than sorry, Kuzma returned stateside while the national team floundered to a 7th place finish in Asia.
Fast forward a few weeks and Kuzma is reportedly still dealing with lower leg issues, specifically his foot, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. Stein is also reporting that as Kuzma continues to heal, the Lakers fear his availability for the start of training camp is in question.
Kuzma promises to be one of the Lakers most important players this season, likely operating as a 6th man and the type of combo forward who can slot between LeBron James and Anthony Davis in lineups where the latter slides up to play center. While it’s Davis’ versatility that unlocks these lineups, Kuzma’s import as a shooter and quasi-shot creator can supercharge these groupings offensively and create late-game lineups that could prove difficult to slow down.
His health, then, is paramount to the team’s success and one can only hope his ailing foot allows him to be ready sooner than later. Especially when also considering the turnover in roster and hiring of new head coach Frank Vogel, both of which lag the team behind many of their conference brethren who will bank on familiarity and chemistry to fuel the type of early season success that can spring them forward in a playoff chase that really will start on the first day of the season.
In saying all that, however, hoping for a quick return should not be mistaken for him coming back earlier than he should. The Lakers have enough frontcourt depth to offset a Kuzma absence into camp and, if necessary, even the start of the season. It would require more Jared Dudley minutes and more Davis at PF, but it’s workable. Kuzma’s health is too important to this team’s long term goals to be messed around with now in the hope of generating positive early returns.
So, get healthy Kyle Kuzma. But don’t rush it. The Lakers hope to be playing into May and June this season. And while September and October work contributes to reaching those late season goals, poor decisions can also help derail them.