Kuzma on LeBron's Return to Lakers: 'We're Not Worried About No Chemistry Issues'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 13, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers high fives Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game against the Washington Wizards on February 22, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said Wednesday he expects LeBron James to make a seamless transition back into the team's lineup as they gear up to defend their NBA title.

James, who's only played twice since March 20 while trying to recover from a high-ankle sprain, confirmed on Twitter he's "getting close" to playing again:

LeBron James @KingJames

Getting close but I won’t be in the lineup tonight but more importantly I will be there to put that CHAMPIONSHIP banner in the rafters at Staples Center in front of our fans!! #No17 💜💛

Kuzma was asked after Wednesday's 124-122 win over the Houston Rockets whether he had any concern about getting the 17-time All-Star involved with just two road games left in the regular season, Saturday against the Indiana Pacers and Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

"No. He knows himself, he knows his body better than anyone,” Kuzma told reporters. “I don't really care if he comes back and he plays, Indiana, Pelicans [and shoots 45 times to get a rhythm]. ... We're not worried about no chemistry issues because of the way he plays."

The Lakers have tumbled down the Western Conference standings in recent months as James and fellow cornerstone Anthony Davis have missed extended stretches because of injuries.

They're currently in seventh place with a 40-30 record, one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks (both 41-29) in the race for a top-six spot. If they finish seventh, they'll have to survive the play-in tournament to keep their hopes of a title defense alive in the postseason.

L.A. might be getting back to full strength right in the nick of time, though.

Head coach Frank Vogel confirmed it's possible James and Davis, who missed Wednesday's game with a groin injury, both return and point guard Dennis Schroder is cleared from the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols in time for the weekend.

"Obviously it's exciting to get everybody back, get our team back fully healthy," guard Wesley Matthews said. "And from there, we're going to see where we are."

At full strength, the Lakers have enough talent to contend for another championship. The question is whether they can starting clicking again with a rotation that's rarely played together over the past handful of months.

The margin for error will be small if they end up in the play-in tournament. They'll face the No. 8 seed, currently the Golden State Warriors led by the red-hot Stephen Curry, and a loss would send them into an elimination game against the winner of the game between the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds.

So they'll try to win both games this weekend for a shot to sneak back into the top six, which would guarantee a seven-game playoff series to find their form.