<
>

Lakers expect Larry Nance Jr. back in lineup against Clippers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Larry Nance Jr. is expected to return to the starting lineup tonight with rookie Kyle Kuzma sliding back to a key reserve role for Los Angeles again, according to Lakers head coach Luke Walton.

Barring something unforeseen, Nance Jr. will start against the LA Clippers after missing the last 11 games with a broken left hand.

"Yeah, still planning on it," Walton said after Lakers shootaround when asked if he is still preparing to start Nance Jr.

Nance Jr. averaged 10.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals while providing defense and hustle for Walton's starting five. The 6-foot-9 power forward has three double-doubles in eight starts.

Kuzma has perhaps been the steal of the NBA draft this season, averaging 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 36.6 percent 3-point shooting. In his first 11 career starts in place of the injured Nance Jr., Kuzma averaged 18 points and 7.4 rebounds while posting four double-doubles, including a 30-point and 10-rebound effort against Phoenix on Nov. 17.

"I mean, to me it doesn't really matter," said Kuzma, who was drafted 27th overall with the Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick that came in the Brook Lopez-D'Angelo Russell trade. "I proved I can play against second-unit guys, first-unit guys, same thing. I learned more patience in the first group playing against starters."