When the Los Angeles Lakers revamped the majority of their roster this summer, much of the focus was on the acquisition of Russell Westbrook. Yet their biggest free-agent signing — point guard Kendrick Nunn — has yet to make his Purple and Gold debut.
As the Lakers scratch and claw their way through an uneven regular season, Nunn has been glued to the bench through all of it. Sadly, it appears his return to the court will have to wait even longer.
Kendrick Nunn was signed to be a key piece for the Los Angeles Lakers
Just one year ago, Nunn was a finalist for NBA Rookie of the Year. The impressive 26-year-old guard averaged 15.3 points for the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, starting 67 games as a rookie. His performance, as well as his playing time, took a slight dip in 2020-21 with 14.6 points in 56 games. Yet the Heat decided to move on from Nunn, withdrawing his qualifying offer to make him an unrestricted free agent.
Three days after hitting the market, Nunn came to a deal with the Lakers. LA, which acquired Westbrook just days prior, signed Nunn to a two-year deal worth $10.25 million. That made the third-year guard the fifth highest-paid player on the team, trailing Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker.
Whether it was starting at the other guard spot or serving as one of the primary scorers off the bench, Nunn was due to have a significant role in LA’s quest to win a title. Though so far, his only contribution has been cheering on his new teammates.
The Lakers receive more bad news regarding Nunn
The injury bug has latched onto Nunn. First, the 6-foot-2 guard suffered a sprained ankle during the preseason, limiting his availability. Then, soon after the regular season got underway, an MRI revealed a bone bruise in his knee. The bruise was set to be reevaluated in two to three weeks according to head coach Frank Vogel.
Now it’s December 7. The Lakers have played 24 games, and Nunn has missed all of them. And that number will continue to grow, according to the latest update by Vogel.
“Probably not,” Vogel told SB Nation when asked if Nunn was likely to come back before the new year. “But there’s no firm timeline on that. We’ll see. I would say probably not.”
Bone bruises are unpredictable in terms of recovery time, as Sports Illustrated mentioned at the time of Nunn’s initial diagnosis. So Vogel’s estimations are about as accurate as anyone else’s.
Another injured player is inching closer to returning
While doom and gloom are the main takeaways from the latest Nunn update, another injured Laker is moving closer toward making his long-awaited debut.
Veteran forward Trevor Ariza took part in live action on Monday, including a scrimmage with the team. The 36-year-old underwent ankle surgery just days into training camp.
“[Ariza] still looks like he has a ways to go to get his legs under him and all those types of things,” Vogel said after practice. “It still feels a little bit weak for him. But not painful, if that makes sense. It’s going to take time for him to build strength in the ankle and, obviously, get his legs under him. But he participated in full scrimmage, yes.”
Nunn and Ariza are the only two Lakers on the shelf with injuries. But many players, including LeBron, have missed time in 2021-22. In fact, only Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Malik Monk have appeared in all 24 of LA’s contests.
The Lakers are hoping to return to full strength sooner rather than later. But Nunn’s timeline casts doubt as to when, or if, that ever happens.