The Los Angeles Lakers have been missing Larry Nance, Jr. ever since he suffered a broken finger a few weeks ago. Nance, who won the starting power forward job over incumbent Julius Randle and rookie Kyle Kuzma, has been unable to remain healthy in his first three seasons in the NBA.
Nance, however, is coming back from this injury soon, much earlier than expected. The Lakers announced that the Wyoming product is aiming to return to the court on Monday against the LA Clippers. He was cleared to return to practice last week.
Nance’s return once again opens up the starting power forward debate. Randle has been the team’s best player most nights but he seems glued to the bench for now as Luke Walton has kept his minutes short and used him primarily as a backup center. Kuzma, though, has been a revelation all year and has continued or even improved upon his form as the starter in Nance’s spot.
It may not be as much of a debate for Lakers coaches, however, as Walton implied that Nance would be the starter once he officially returns to the team:
At this point, there’s probably no right or wrong answer in making this decision. Starting Nance slows the first unit’s offense a lot but allows the Lakers to play Kuzma and Randle off the bench together, a duo that has been solid all year with an almost net-zero production. (The team’s best five-man lineup all year has featured the two versatile forwards with Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Brandon Ingram.)
For his part, Nance was open to starting or coming off the bench. In typical Larry fashion, Nance spoke about what’s best for the team: