The Los Angeles Lakers may be even more shorthanded than they have in recent games when squaring off with the New York Knicks on Friday. Forward Kyle Kuzma suffered a back injury in the team’s last game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and entered the day with a questionable tag.
Unfortunately, the outlook got a bit bleaker ahead of the game when the Lakers took the floor for shootaround. As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin revealed, Kuzma missed shootaround while getting treatment on his back injury.
The outlook isn’t overly surprising, as Kuzma played just 16 minutes against the Thunder before being forced from the action. While the young forward may wind up missing this game against the Knicks, his overall injury status isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. As Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times revealed, Kuzma’s MRI showed a lower back contusion.
The immediate outlook for Kuzma seems to potentially be worse than the long term, but this injury will certainly impact the Lakers on Friday, for a few reasons.
Looming Injuries to LeBron James & Rajon Rondo
Kuzma’s injury is just the latest of a few for the Lakers which have created some headaches. The groin strain suffered by LeBron James on Christmas Day has already cost him four games and the latest report didn’t bring immediately helpful news. As Dave McMenamin also reported, James will not travel with the team on their upcoming road trip and is set to be re-evaluated in one week.
With James now locked in to miss at least three more games, his extended absence leaves him on the shelf with Rajon Rondo, who underwent surgery on his hand in late December. Rondo will miss at least one month of action, meaning Lonzo Ball will continue to do the bulk of the heavy lifting.
Shorthanded Lakers Outlook vs. Knicks
Since the Lakers are already without James and Rondo, the potential for Kuzma to miss the game has led to the team recalling three players from their G League affiliate. As the South Bay Lakers revealed, Moritz Wagner, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Isaac Bonga were brought back for this game and each player will be available to play.
Beyond that, if Kuzma misses the game, fans should prepare to see Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart shoulder a heavy amount of the offensive load. JaVale McGee also sees an increased workload with James, Rondo, Kuzma, and Michael Beasley (personal) off the court. As Basketball Monster shows, McGee’s usage increases from 19.7 to 30.6 in that situation, while Ingram’s usage goes to 30.7.
*Note: Lauren A. Jones of The Los Angeles Sentinel revealed Michael Beasley is back with the team and may see a few minutes if Kuzma is unable to play.
Beasley’s return is unlikely to impact the rotation much, and even if he plays it may be minimal minutes in his first game action in just under one month.