LOS ANGELES — The ball went up in the air. So, of course, that meant Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. would chase it. After all, there’s never a hustle play that Nance decides to take off.
But that also set up a collision course for Nance. With Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell throwing a cross-court pass toward Nance in the final minute of Friday’s overtime win over Minnesota, Timberwolves forward Gorgui Dieng poked Nance in the eye and nose in hopes to grab the ball. Nance immediately went to the ground as he nursed a bloody nose and plenty of dizziness.
“Anytime you get hit in the face or get hit in the nose, it obviously takes a while to recuperate yourself,” Nance said following the Lakers’ 130-119 overtime win over Minnesota on Friday at Staples Center. “Anytime you get hit in the nose, tears start to swell up. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t necessarily want Staples [Center] seeing that.”
Instead, the crowd at Staples Center saw Nance provide another example of his toughness. Instead of leaving the game, Nance stood up and went to the foul line. Though he later lamented he only split his pair of free throws, Nance deserves kudos for even stepping to the foul line and taking them. Nance also made a pair of foul shots in a Lakers’ win against Phoenix on Nov. 6 after taking a hard fall that later developed into a concussion.
“At a certain point, it becomes muscle memory,” Nance said. “Whether I was seeing 1 ½ or 2 rims, my muscles kind of took over and guided me on those.”
That just begs one question. Why do this incidents seemingly only happen to Nance?
“I asked the same question. I blame D-Lo,” Nance said, smirking, referring to Russell. “He set that up. That’s like throwing to your receiver across the middle. He saw the safety in the background. He threw it up. Like an idiot, I put hands over my body and got cracked for it. I’ll have words with him.”
Meanwhile, Lakers fans had words for Nance. After staying silent as he stayed on the ground, the sellout out crowd at Staples Center broke out with “LA-RRY, LA-RRY” chants once he stood up. It reminded Nance of his days at University of Wyoming and two stints with the Lakers’ summer league team where he became fan favorites. Nance’s ability to play through pain partly explains their affection for him.
“Staples Center is chanting my name?” Nance said, excitedly. “On Shaq’s night? It was a really cool feeling.”