EL SEGUNDO — Any movement Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. made on the practice floor represented significant progress. After all, Nance has sat out for the past four weeks nursing a bone bruise in his left knee, meaning he could no longer leap for dunks and rebounds as he normally has done.
But despite completing practices on Wednesday and Thursday without any reported setbacks, Nance will not play when the Lakers (15-31) host the Indiana Pacers (22-19) on Friday at Staples Center. The Lakers plan to reevaluate Nance’s knee on Friday evening and provide an update on Saturday for his availability for Sunday’s game in Dallas.
“That’s definitely a medical call. It’s their job to clear me,” Nance said. “Apparently, I have a few more tests to pass and everything. But I’m just looking forward toward getting back, whenever that is. I hope they let me play four weeks ago. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have missed anytime. I’m just happy to be nearing getting back out on the court.”
In the past week, Nance has progressed steadily from 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 court exercises. Nance completed most of Wednesday’s practice before the Lakers’ training staff kept him out of more physical drills at the end of the session. Nance went through all of Thursday’s practice without any restrictions.
That prompted Lakers coach Luke Walton to say Nance “looked good” before proclaiming him as questionable for Friday’s game. Shortly afterwards, the Lakers’ training staff Nance him out.
“The way I saw he played today, it looked like he could play,” Walton said. “But that’s not a medical opinion. That’s just me watching him play basketball.”
It remains understandable Walton hopes Nance’s return happens soon. While the Lakers’ second-year forward has averaged 7.0 points on 58.4 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds in 22.4 minutes off the bench, the Lakers have also valued his consistency with both defensive effort, team play and leadership.
Nonetheless, Walton said recently he plans to phase Nance gradually into the lineup. Although he has jumped above the rim in the past week, Nance said he’s still “working on” his explosiveness stemmed from rustiness after missing the past 15 games.
Whenever Nance returns, though, he might bring along a new skill. In recent shooting workouts, Nance shot at an efficient rate both with mid-range jumpers and 3-point shots. Although Nance has aimed to expand his game, he also has not tried to force it so it would not compromise his energetic presence and overall team play.
“When they play off of me,” Nance said, “hopefully it’s a mistake.”