Soon enough, the Lakers informal practice will likely lead to highlight reels. It could range anywhere from high-flying dunks, forceful blocks or hustle plays.
Those will likely come from one energetic force: Lakers second-year forward Larry Nance Jr.
“I’m going to be bouncing off the walls,” Nance said. “I’m serious.”
The reasons may not just stem from Nance wanting to build off his promising rookie season as the Lakers’ 27th overall pick. It might go beyond Nance’s excitement from training without any limitations after nursing a sprained right wrist in the Lakers’ Summer League finale.
Nance will also be less than a day removed from receiving an infusion of Remicade, which he has taken every 7 ½ weeks ever since he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 16. That treatment often lead to some early naps. But Nance also compared his later reaction to the medicine toward what the “Popeye” character felt after eating spinach.
“It’s not fair,” Nance said. “I feel like I have super human strength.”
That became the crux of Nance’s message when he spent Wednesday afternoon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. As he received an infusion, Nance made several visits with about 25 children that either had Crohn’s disease or another inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Later on, Nance joined some of those children at the hospital’s basketball court,while also signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“The biggest thing I say is you do have a disease, but it’s a disease you can make work around your schedule,” Nance said. “You can do it. I’m sitting proof that once you get it figured out, make your disease work around you.”
Before his diagnosis, Nance’s chronic fatigue prompted coaches to question his energy. He even thought of quitting. After his treatment, though, Nance jumped significantly both in height and weight. Consider the differences between his listed frame as high school sophomore (5’10, 140 pounds), high school junior (6’1, 152), a University of Wyoming standout (6’6, 180) and an NBA rising star (6’9, 240).
In a process that usually lasts 2 ½ hours, Nance receives an infusion of Remicade about every 7 ½ weeks. He spent Wednesday receiving that treatment with patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. But instead of Nance squeezing in hospital visits in the middle of a jam-packed NBA schedule, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center physicians have usually treated Nance at his home in the past year.
Nance also has taken a steroid every week called Methotrexate, which he said prevents antibodies from fighting against the Remicade infusions. That led to Nance feeling awkward when he asked NBA officials at the Rookie Transition Program for permission to take steroids.
“I felt silly doing it,” Nance said. “Obviously steroids aren’t allowed. But these are anabolic steroids. I had to make sure before I get kicked out of the league for trying to stay healthy.”
Assuming he stays healthy and productive enough for a long NBA career, Nance’s visit with patients on Wednesday marked just the beginning of raising awareness regarding Crohn’s disease. He joined the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America and participated in the organization’s walk event this summer to raise funds. Nance also sounded open toward either starting his own foundation or joining one.
After spending his childhood idolizing NFL quarterback David Garrard for nursing the same Crohn’s disease, Nance sounded mindful he could represent that figure for someone else.
“If I had gotten to meet him, that would have made me the happiest kid in the world, added some motivation and boosted my spirits,” Nance said. “Hopefully I can do that to a few kids here.”
It appeared Nance already has done that at least to Brady and Chase Hatch of Ventura County.
“He was very inspiring,” said Brady Hatch, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Chaparral Middle School. “It doesn’t matter if you have Crohn’s disease.”
Chase Hatch, an 11-year-old seventh grader at Chaparral Middle School, then interjected.
“I look up to him,” Chase Hatch said.
Word circulated back to Nance perhaps as quickly as one of his fast-break dunks.
“Hearing that is pretty cool,” Nance said. “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m letting people see, ‘If he’s at the highest level he can possibly be at in terms of sports and he still has to sit here and do his three hours [of treatment], what am I complaining about? Hopefully it can lift their spirits.”
Nance anticipated he would have lifted spirits during practice on Thursday, feeling an adrenaline rush both from his treatment and excitement from playing this week after healing his summer-league injury.
“Ending it like that was pretty frustrating,” Nance said. “But it could’ve been a lot worse. I’m thankful I can just get back on the court.”