With eyes firmly cast toward the future, the Los Angeles Lakers have to temper expectations in the short term, both the hopeful and pessimistic variety.
The Lakers fell to 0-2 in the preseason with a 113-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, and the contest gave fans reason to be both optimistic and a little bit worried when it comes to the latest news out of Los Angeles.
Lonzo Ball Suffers Mild Ankle Sprain
Updates on Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball will be monitored by Lakers diehards with special intensity in the coming days, as he suffered a mild left ankle sprain against the Nuggets, per the Orange County Register's Bill Oram. Ball is expected to learn more about his status today:
Bill Oram @billoram
Lonzo Ball: "If I can play I'm going to play." Will meet with training staff tomorrow to determine whether he'll practice Tuesday.2017-10-3 05:31:18
Ball finished the game against Denver with eight points, three rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. He injured his ankle late in the second quarter but was able to return to the contest for just five minutes before leaving the game for good, per Oram.
Ball told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne in the video below that his injury is "day to day."
Despite playing just 21 minutes, Ball did have time to flash some of his breathtaking potential.
He got the crowd going by finishing, not starting, a thunderous alley-oop, per the NBA:
Lonzo Ball catches the oop to lead Monday's TOP 5 #NBAPreseason PLAYS! https://t.co/2G4Tlm2flG2017-10-3 13:00:06
Already the face of the current iteration of the franchise, Ball has had his every move and development examined since the team drafted him second overall back in June. The ankle injury will no doubt be an immediate source of concern for many, as the silky passer is clearly the team's biggest draw and a potential cornerstone for future success.
The injury doesn't sound very serious, and since it's the preseason, the Lakers should have no issue holding Ball out of practice if necessary, or even shutting him down for a game or two to play it safe.
However, the Lakers do want to get as much out of Ball before the season begins, considering he's the main building block of the franchise now. Head coach Luke Walton sees Ball, one of the team's youngest players, as a natural leader.
“If he went to the rec center people would follow him,” Walton said, per Oram, “because he makes people better and that’s what great leaders do.”
Barring a setback or an updated diagnosis, Ball's injury should be little to worry about for the team as they prepare for the beginning of a season that fans hope will show progress toward returning to contender status.
Kyle Kuzma Continues to Impress
Ball is the Lakers rookie that is impossible to ignore, but fellow first-year player Kyle Kuzma is making sure that he gets his own spotlight with some eye-catching play this preseason.
In the Lakers' preseason-opening loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, the 22-year-old forward posted a team-high 19 points to go along with five rebounds and a steal. Against the Nuggets, Kuzma again paced the team in scoring, tallying 23 points. Kuzma sank 4-of-9 from three-point range, building on his Summer League performances that also saw him shoot well from long distance.
Here's a compilation of some of his best moments from the game against Minnesota, per the NBA:
Kuuuuz... Kyle Kuzma gets going for the @Lakers! #NBAPreseason https://t.co/iey9JeyZ6k2017-10-1 04:23:19
Synergy Sports Tech noted that efficiency has been key to Kuzma's game in the preseason thus far:
Synergy Sports Tech @SynergySST
Kyle Kuzma has posted an eFG% of 69% in the half court and 75% on spot ups through his first two preseason games for the @Lakers.2017-10-3 16:11:37
The 27th pick in this year's draft, Kuzma certainly looks like he has the ability to establish himself on this team earlier than expected. He can score in a variety of ways, brings energy to his work on both sides of the floor and positionally it appears he can fit in the lineup as a shooting guard or at either of the forward spots.
Lakers second-year forward Brandon Ingram called Kuzma the "steal of the draft" on media day, per the Los Angeles Times' Tania Ganguli, and the University of Utah product is building on his early success.
“I’m getting confident as a scorer and shooter every single game,” Kuzma said, per Ganguli. “It’s only my second time playing against NBA competition. For me it’s all about confidence and getting reps and getting minutes.”
It's only preseason of course, and the regular rigor of the NBA will eventually expose any deficiencies in Kuzma's game. But for now, Kuzma is full of promise and excitement, a welcome development for someone whose arrival to the team almost seemed like an afterthought with all the attention paid to Ball, the guy drafted 25 spots ahead of him.
Lakers Next Game
So when can Lakers fans catch their budding young team next? The Purple and Gold play the Nuggets for the second contest in a row on Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be held at the Citizens Bank Business Arena in Ontario, California.
After that, the Lakers will head to Las Vegas to play the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.