The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t quite back at full strength yet, but they’re at least trending in the right direction. The Lakers welcome Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons to town on Wednesday night and will do so with Kyle Kuzma in the lineup for the second consecutive game. After he missed two straight with a sore back, Kuzma returned to the lineup Monday against the Dallas Mavericks.
His return was a timely one also, as he helped to snap a tough losing skid for the Lakers. Prior to the team’s 107-97 win over Dallas, they had dropped three straight and five of the last six games. Now, they’ll look to build on that win, but will do so without both LeBron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (finger) once again.
The two players have missed the last seven games, and the Lakers have a 2-5 record over that stretch which began after a Christmas Day victory against the Golden State Warriors. Let’s take a look at the Lakers roster and starting lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Pistons and also the latest on James’ status.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Pistons
*Notates expected starter
C: JaVale McGee*, Tyson Chandler, Ivica Zubac
PF: Kyle Kuzma*, Michael Beasley, Moritz Wagner
SF: Brandon Ingram*, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SG: Josh Hart*, Lance Stephenson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
PG: Lonzo Ball*
The Lakers could opt to go a variety of ways with their rotation, but we may have at least an idea of the plan based on how head coach Luke Walton utilized the group last game. The starters saw big minutes with the exception of JaVale McGee, who played 23 minutes due to foul trouble. The other four players all saw 37 or more minutes with Josh Hart playing 44.
Of the Lakers bench, only two players hit double-digit minutes – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21) and Tyson Chandler (19). Michael Beasley played well off the bench, although it was only over nine minutes, shooting 5-6 from the field and totaling 13 points.
With Kuzma back in the lineup there was obviously a bit of rust, as he shot just 4-20 from the field and 2-10 from beyond the arc. Lonzo Ball was efficient shooting the ball once again, scoring 21 points on 8-15 shooting (4-8 from 3-point range) while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
LeBron James Injury Update & Return Timeline
The hopeful outlook of a potential return for James sooner than later has consistently been pushed back. And now, the future Hall-of-Famer will not only miss Wednesday’s game against the Pistons but is also out for Friday’s matchup with the Utah Jazz. As Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group revealed, James will not travel with the team to Utah.
As stated above, James will be evaluated on Friday to reveal a better timeline on his potential return. Obviously, the hope is that he’ll be good to go in the coming days, but the team may be wise to let him rest until next week. After the game against the Jazz, the Lakers welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to town on Sunday.
They have a day off after that before a date with the Chicago Bulls Tuesday, followed by a road game with the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday, January 17.