Kyle Kuzma

Injury Updates: Thomas, Ball, Irving, Curry

Isaiah Thomas is declaring his right hip to be “fixed” after season-ending surgery, relays Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Thomas played just 17 games for the Lakers before opting for the March 28 procedure to address lingering problems in the hip. He talked to reporters at Friday’s game and proclaimed his time with in L.A. to be successful.

“I came in here with … nothing on my agenda and nothing in my plans,” Thomas said. “I just wanted to play basketball and get that joy back and being on the Lakers brought that joy back from having a tough couple of months in Cleveland.”

Thomas added that the pain in his hip never went away, even as he sat out for seven months in an attempt to rehab the joint. He expressed confidence that the situation won’t affect his offers in free agency, believing that teams will understand he was trying to play through an injury.

There’s plenty of news tonight on the injury front:

  • The season may not be over for rookie guard Lonzo Ball, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Ball, who has missed the past five games with a left knee contusion, participated in some drills today and the Lakers have upgraded him to questionable for Sunday’s contest. Teammate Kyle Kuzma is also questionable after suffering a mild sprain to his left ankle Friday night.
  • The Celtics expect Kyrie Irving to be ready for training camp after having knee surgery today, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN. Irving had two screws removed from his left knee and has a projected recovery time of four to five months. “The surgery went exactly as planned, and we expect Kyrie to be fully healthy for training camp in the fall,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a prepared statement.
  • Celtics center Daniel Theis, who had season-ending surgery on his left knee, said he hopes to be able to get off his crutches in two to three weeks, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Celtics forward Guerschon Yabusele will have an MRI on his knee after sitting out practice today, according to Tom Westerholm of MassLive“They don’t think it’s anything,” coach Brad Stevens said of team doctors, “but they’re going to get some imaging just to make sure.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr declined to offer an update on Stephen Curry before tonight’s game, tweets Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. The star guard will miss at least the first round of the playoffs with an MCL sprain. “There’s nothing there,” Kerr said. “[Check back] next week.”
  • The Nuggets are preparing to finish the season without guard Gary Harris, who is recovering from a knee injury, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post (Twitter link). “Right now, I’m not expecting Gary Harris back [in the regular season],” coach Michael Malone said before today’s game. “We have to continue to find ways to win games and compete at a high level with the players that are available, and Gary’s not on that list right now.”
  • The Bucks had hoped that Malcolm Brogdon could play tonight, but decided to hold him out for another game, writes Matt Velazquez of The Journal Sentinel. Brogdon hasn’t been available since since partially tearing his left quadriceps tendon more than two months ago. “Honestly there hasn’t been many setbacks,” Brogdon said. “I’ve had maybe two or three sore days in the whole rehab process and that’s not many at all. Very few setbacks. I’ve made progress, progress, taken big steps almost every day so it’s been a very smooth rehab so far.”

Injury Notes: Curry, Leonard, Porzingis, George

The Warriors will hold Stephen Curry out of action for another week while he recovers from a “tweaked” right ankle, the team announced in a tweet. Curry is making progress with his rehab, according to the Warriors, and will be re-evaluated March 20. That means he will miss at least four more games. Curry has been sidelined since Thursday when he hurt the ankle while being fouled on a layup attempt against the Spurs.

There’s more injury-related news from around the NBA:

  • Kawhi Leonard hasn’t received medical clearance to start playing again, relays Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains in daily contact with Leonard and says the team is being careful not to bring him back before he’s fully ready. “He’s got to be cleared by his medical staff that he’s seeing. And until he gets cleared, we can’t make a decision on when he’s coming back,” Popovich said. “So once he gets cleared, then he and I can sit down and talk and see what we think about an appropriate time to come back. But that clearance has to be obtained first.” An earlier report indicated that Leonard might play tomorrow, but San Antonio has ruled that out.
  • Kristaps Porzingis was “shocked” when doctors told him he had torn his left ACL, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Making his first public comments since the injury, the Knicks forward vowed to return to his All-Star level, but isn’t sure when he might start playing again. “I can’t give you anything,’’ Porzingis said. “I have no idea. You should ask the doctor, maybe. And he would tell you something. And myself, I’m just going day by day really, and we’ll see where is the comeback at. There is no timetable for now. It’s pretty far off to put a timetable out there.’’
  • Paul George left last night’s game with a groin injury, but doesn’t expect to miss any time, according to Royce Young of ESPN. George will be re-evaluated today before the Thunder decide whether he can play Friday.
  • X-rays were negative on Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis, who left Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia with a sprained left ankle. He will undergo an MRI when the team returns home.
  • The Lakers are listing Kyle Kuzma as questionable for tonight’s game after he sprained his right ankle Tuesday, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. X-rays taken last night were negative.
  • Larry Nance Jr. left Tuesday’s game early after he tweaked his right hamstring, relays ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). The Cavaliers center said he’s “absolutely fine” and plans to play tomorrow in Portland.

L.A. Notes: Bradley, Clippers, Thomas, Ball

As the Clippers headed to Phoenix for Friday night’s game against the Suns, Avery Bradley stayed behind in Los Angeles to receive treatment on a sports hernia injury that has nagged at him for much of the season, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. The Clippers, who could have used Bradley on defense during Thursday’s 134-127 loss to Golden State, aren’t sure exactly when the veteran guard will return to action.

“We are concerned,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We’ve got to go through the right stuff and make sure he’s in a good place with his health. I think we’re going to send him to a doctor and let him check and see.”

Here’s more out of Los Angles on both the Clippers and Lakers:

  • The Clippers currently have one opening on their 15-man roster, which would allow the team to give a full-fledged roster spot to one of its two-way players. However, it’s not clear whether Tyrone Wallace or C.J. Williams would be first in line for that spot, as both players are expected to receive consideration, according to Turner. “Hopefully we can get something resolved pretty soon,” Rivers said. “We just got to figure out what we’re going to do. We may be able to sign one.”
  • With the Lakers focusing on developing younger players and Isaiah Thomas in need of a showcase before he hits free agency, the union between the two doesn’t exactly look like a marriage made in heaven, writes Rob Mahoney of SI.com. Still, Lonzo Ball is looking forward to playing with Thomas, suggesting that his pass-first style and Thomas’ score-first mentality should mesh well together, as Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details.
  • In a conversation with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma addressed several topics, including the team’s recent trades of Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson, his friendship with Ball, and the possibility of the Lakers landing a star in free agency.

Latest on Lakers-Ball Controversy

Lakers coach Luke Walton is more concerned about the distraction caused by LaVar Ball’s comments about him than his job security, sources told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Ball, in comments published by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, created a firestorm when Ball said Walton had lost the team and no one wanted to play for him. Ball had met with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka in late November after the father of rookie guard Lonzo Ball publicly criticized Walton. The elder Ball promised to tone down his act, so both he and Johnson must be held accountable now, Shelburne opines, as Ball went back on his word and Johnson failed to immediately defend his coach. The club needs to take a harsher stance against LaVar Ball or risk being dragged into one controversy after another, Shelburne concludes.

In other developments regarding the Lakers/Ball situation:

  • Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma gave a ringing endorsement of Walton, as Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets: “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”
  • The National Basketball Coaches Association issued a statement condemning Goodman’s report, calling it “reprehensible and insulting.” The coaches felt that ESPN should have done more research before publishing Ball’s comments. “The story failed to provide quotes or perspectives from any players, or from Lakers management, either named or unnamed, verifying the claims made in the story. The article lacks any of the basic fundamental benchmarks and standards of reliable journalism,” the statement read in part.
  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy chimed in on the situation and ripped ESPN for reporting Ball’s comments as news. “I thought it was a cheap shot and I thought ESPN showed total disrespect,” Van Gundy told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and other media members. “I don’t have a problem with LaVar Ball. He’s a grown man. He can voice whatever opinion he wants. I got a problem with ESPN deciding that’s a story.”
  • ESPN had every right to publish Ball’s comments and the real burden falls on the Lakers, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman opines. The team brought on these issues by drafting Ball, knowing all about his attention-grabbing father. If Goodman hadn’t reported it, someone else would have, according to Tramel.
  • Johnson, Pelinka and Walton must find a way to rebuild the franchise’s culture, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. The team is hoping to land two high-level free agents but that won’t happen if it’s perceived to be in disarray, Mannix adds.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Walton, Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope

Lonzo Ball‘s shoulder sprain will keep him out at least another week and the team isn’t setting a timetable for his return, according to The Orange County Register. Ball played through the injury after getting hurt in Saturday’s game, but the pain was much worse the next morning. The Lakers plan to re-evaluate him prior to their New Year’s Eve game in Houston, and with coach Luke Walton‘s policy that players practice before they play, Ball’s return could be pushed into the new year.

“There’s no target [date] at least from my standpoint,” Walton said. “The only thing that matters with him is getting him healthy. There’s no reason to try to target a date and get him back. Obviously we want him back as soon as possible but big picture and what he means to us. We need him to be healthy so once he’s back he stays back.”

There’s more this morning out of Los Angeles:

  • Walton understands Andrew Bogut‘s recent comments that some players are distracted by off-court rumors, the Register relays in the same article. It’s well known throughout the league that the Lakers would like to maximize their cap room for next summer, which means roster moves could be upcoming that involve Luol Deng, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and others. “I think that every team deals with it,” Walton said, “the outside influence. Whether it is one-year deals, or trade rumors in the media, whatever is going on in the outside world that as a player you read or hear about or agents tell you about, is a very real distraction.”
  • Kyle Kuzma‘s 31-point performance Monday was the latest reminder to general managers that they made a huge mistake by letting him slide to the 27th pick, writes Mitch Lawrence of Forbes. Kuzma was viewed as “a non-range shooter and an average athlete” coming out of Utah, an unidentified Western Conference GM tells Lawrence. But the Lakers have been watching Kuzma closely since he was a sophomore, tipped off by former assistant coach and scout Bill Bertka.
  • The Lakers are being supportive of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as he resolves a legal issue, although it has resulted in some locker room teasing, notes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Caldwell-Pope is serving a 25-day sentence in a Seal Beach detention center for violating a probation agreement. He is released for games, but is not allowed to leave California until all his time is served. “I think we have that mutual bond within the group that we can all talk (trash) to each other and not take it personally,” Bogut said. “KCP is no different.”

L.A. Notes: Beverley, W. Johnson, Kuzma, Free Agency

Patrick Beverley is expected to return to the Clippers’ lineup Monday after missing five games with soreness in his right knee, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The injury-riddled team needs to get healthy soon, as it has dropped eight straight games and fallen to 5-10 after a 4-0 start. L.A. has been without its opening-night starting backcourt of Beverley and Milos Teodosic, who remains out indefinitely with a left plantar fascia injury.

Beverley was part of the package the Clippers received from Houston in this summer’s trade for Chris Paul. He was off to a strong start, averaging 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists through 10 games, along with elite-level defense.

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • With Beverley, Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari all sidelined by injuries, the Clippers want more offensive production from Wesley Johnson, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Johnson, who has a player option for next season worth more than $6.1MM, is taking more than twice as many shots as last season at 5.5 per game, but is careful about not forcing things. “I just see how the game feels out and then just go like that,” he said. “But I think they want me to just go out there and just have an imprint on the game. Just go out there and junk it up, do whatever.”
  • After being ignored for most of his basketball life, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has become one of the most celebrated rookies in the NBA, notes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Kuzma wasn’t invited to New York for the draft and he was a little-noticed part of the draft night trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn. “I felt like I had to sell myself everywhere,” Kuzma said of the pre-draft process. “Coming out of college, they kind of pegged me as a second-round to undrafted kind of guy. I didn’t really have that many options. Everybody was telling me to go back to school. Literally, everybody did. But I knew I was a lot better than everyone projected me to be. So going through the draft process I was on a mission, super focused. I had to come in every interview, every workout, and pretty much smash it.”
  • Despite months of rumors and a plan to create enough cap room for two max offers, the Lakers shouldn’t be overly confident that LeBron James and Paul George will join them next summer, writes Mark Heisler of The Orange County Register.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Free Agency, Deng

The Lakers were hoping Lonzo Ball would be an instant star who would help lure LeBron James and other free agents next summer, but that hasn’t happened yet, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. That was especially obvious during last night’s game with the Sixers that featured a wealth of young talent on both teams. Ball made just one of nine shots from the field and didn’t play in the final 16 minutes.

“What we know he’s going to become requires a lot of work, and a lot of growth,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “He’ll get there, and there’s going to be some ups and downs on that path.”

Ball is only 20 and has enjoyed some success, becoming the youngest player in league history to post a triple-double. But he hasn’t been the finished product the Lakers thought they were getting, averaging 9.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 15 games but shooting just 30.3% from the field. L.A. hopes to have enough cap room to offer two max contracts in July, but there’s no guarantee the current roster will be enough to attract elite talent.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma appears to be more of an impact player than Ball, according to Josh Plantos of The Washington Post. The swingman out of Utah, who was taken with the 27th pick, is second on the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and ranks third among all rookies in win shares, with Ball at 21st. He is also far ahead of Ball in Player Efficiency Rating and is versatile enough to play three positions.
  • Kuzma’s performance is one of several reasons for optimism in Los Angeles, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. The Lakers also have a projected $47MM in cap space for next summer, trade chips such as Julius Randle, Corey Brewer and others, a well-run front office under Magic Johnson, the continued development of Brandon Ingram and Bird rights on Brook Lopez.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests an unorthodox strategy for opening more cap space next summer: an extension for Luol Deng. The proposal would add three years to Deng’s contract with a minimal amount of guaranteed money. The Lakers could then buy him out and stretch his remaining salary over 11 years rather than five, resulting in an annual payment of about $3.3MM. The plan, if Deng is willing to play along, would give L.A. $57.3MM in cap space for 2018/19, almost enough to offer two max contracts. The timing is tricky as Deng isn’t eligible for the extension until July 7, which is a week into free agency.

Lakers Notes: Kuzma, Lopez, KCP, Nance Jr.

Rookie power forward Kyle Kuzma had a feeling the Lakers would draft him after his stock rose, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports. Kuzma, who declared after his junior season at Utah, was originally pegged as second-round material who might even go undrafted. Kuzma wound up getting picked 27th overall and has taken the league by storm, posting three double-doubles and three 20-point games. “I knew I was way better than that, better than how people pegged me,” he told Charania. “After I killed draft workouts and the combine, I knew I would go in the first round. I had a good hint that it would be L.A., just because of the workout and my combine interview with them, but I didn’t know until draft night.”

In other items concerning the Lakers:

  • The offense has perked up in recent games and center Brook Lopez has played a big role in that improvement, as Joey Ramirez of the team’s website notes. Lopez, who was acquired in an offseason deal with the Nets, is the NBA’s sixth-highest scorer over the last three games, averaging 27.3 PPG. Kuzma believes improved health has led to Lopez’s offensive outburst, as he told Ramirez. “The whole preseason he was really bad with a back injury and little nicks and bruises,” Kuzma said. “You can tell he’s getting back to the Nets version of Brook Lopez.”
  • Lopez and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have helped to stabilize a mostly youthful roster, coach Luke Walton told NBA.com’s David Aldridge. Lopez has provided a steadying force on offense, while Caldwell-Pope has helped establish a defensive mindset, Aldridge adds. Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18MM free agent contract after the Pistons renounced his rights during restricted free agency. “I think KCP coming over, just a hard-nosed player,” Walton told Aldridge. “He’s been in that Eastern Conference, hard worker. He kind of helps set that tone. Brook’s been a solid vet in this league for a long time.”
  • Larry Nance Jr. is frustrated by his latest injury setback, as he told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register and other media members. Nance Jr., who missed multiple games with knee injuries the last two seasons, is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured left hand. He was averaging 10.6 PPG and 7.4 RPG in 23.1 MPG before suffering the injury Thursday. “I was given a really good chance, was making the most of it,” he said. “So I’m just anxious to get back and keep making a good impression.”

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Blue, Bogut

Lonzo Ball‘s NBA debut brought an electric atmosphere to Saturday’s preseason opener, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The second overall pick had a rough shooting night, going 2 for 9 from the field and finishing with five points, but he contributed eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals and showed a sell-out crowd his triple-double potential. “He is so unselfish that sometimes he has good shots for himself and he tries to get someone else a shot,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “We want him taking those. We are looking for him to be a little more aggressive to score the ball, especially early on. I thought he was great the way he was moving around out there and getting people involved.”

There’s more news out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow first-rounder Kyle Kuzma had no shooting problems, sinking 9 of 12 shots and scoring 19 points. The 27th pick out of Utah sparked the Lakers’ offense in the third quarter with four buckets in 91 seconds and showed the same explosiveness he displayed during summer league. “It’s not so much 100 miles per hour like you’d think it is,” Kuzma told Joey Ramirez of NBA.com about the adjustment to the pro game. “It’s really pace, stop and go — I definitely learned a lot out there just in that one game.”
  • Reigning G League MVP Vander Blue is trying to use every advantage as he competes for a roster spot, Ramirez writes in a separate story. Blue has been showing up to practice three hours early each day and scouted all his potential teammates on video before camp began. Blue has been a productive G League player over the past three years, but has just five NBA games on his resume since leaving Marquette in 2013.
  • Andrew Bogut has resolved his visa issues and is ready to join the Lakers, the veteran center tweeted. Bogut agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal with L.A. in mid-September but hasn’t been able to come to the United States because of the visa problem. Bogut is eager to prove that he is fully recovered from a fractured tibia that ended his season in March.

And-Ones: Rookies, All-Stars, Breakouts

A number rookies appear poised to outperform their draft slot, Mike Schmitz of ESPN Insider writes, including one Dennis Smith Jr. whose impressive summer league performance and prime situation with the Mavs have already been discussed ad nauseam.

The scribe makes compelling cases for five other breakout candidates, however, ranging from Jazz lottery pick Donovan Mitchell to the LakersKyle Kuzma, selected 27th overall. Schmitz cites Mitchell’s length and defensive ability, arguing that the wing will work his way into Utah’s still-relevant rotation.

Schmitz also speculates that Justin Jackson will thrive with the Kings considering that he’s a poised perimeter option that doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense.

Although the profiles are hidden behind Insider’s paywall, they discuss the upside and various situation’s that these first-year players find themselves. In addition to the abovementioned, John Collins of the Hawks and Nets big man Jarrett Allen are also featured.

There’s more from throughout the NBA:

  • In a comprehensive account of Darko Milicic‘s life after basketball, ESPN’s Sam Borden revealed that Milicic had made up his mind about never playing in the NBA again when he left the Celtics. It was said, at the time, that he was returning to be with his ailing mother.
  • It may be early to speculate about the 2018 NBA All-Star Game but that didn’t stop A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England from stringing together a potential squad. Familiar faces make up the starting lineup but new additions Jimmy Butler and Paul George make the case for qualifying as a reserve ever more difficult for the players in the conference.
  • With a new season comes new opportunity and David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders has pieced together a summary of Pacific Division players that he thinks may be able to take the next step in 2017/18.