EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out of the season opener against the LA Clippers, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Sunday.
It is unknown just how much of the start to the regular season Kuzma, who was cleared for noncontact practice last week after suffering a stress reaction in his left foot during USA Basketball training camp in August, will miss.
“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 after his team’s second-to-last tune-up before the season opens. “We’re going to try to increase his workload and activities this week, and we’ll see where we’re at.”
After practice was finished Sunday, Kuzma stayed late for extra work with assistant coach Phil Handy. One drill involved Kuzma catching a pass on the wing, driving into the lane for a dunk and then darting out to the 3-point line to spot up and receive another pass for the shot.
Kuzma told ESPN he was “a little more optimistic” about his injury after being able to get back on the court this past week.
“I haven’t really been doing too much, really, for the last two months, so just being able to shoot jump shots and being around the team a little bit more, it’s optimistic, for sure,” Kuzma said before L.A.’s preseason finale against the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Kuzma said he has graduated from pool workouts to running on an altered-gravity treadmill to running on the court.
“There’s a progression,” Vogel said. “He’s on no-contact, half court now. I’m sure we’ll build up to no-contact, full court with sprinting or potentially half court with contact. I’m not sure which direction they’re going to take it next, but there will be a progression this week building him up.”
Without Kuzma available, Vogel could go with a starting lineup of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, Avery Bradley and Danny Green against the Clippers — the only starting unit he tried out twice in L.A.’s six-game preseason slate — however the coach said he would not finalize that decision until Tuesday.
Kuzma averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season, his second in the NBA. Vogel called him “probably our third-best player” and said Kuzma’s addition whenever he is cleared to play will tempt Vogel to supersize the Lakers’ lineup.
“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.”
Vogel said Kuzma has been “impatient” with the injury but has been “on board with the plan” the Lakers training staff has implemented to get him back to full capacity.
“The main thing is just making sure I’m healthy and (ready to) go,” Kuzma said. “It’s a long season, so (missing opening night) won’t affect me mentally or anything.”