Kyle Kuzma's season debut set for Friday against Mavericks

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Barring any setbacks, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma will make his season debut on Friday against the Dallas Mavericks.

After participating on Wednesday in a practice with the South Bay Lakers, the team's G League affiliate, Kuzma went through his first practice with his Lakers teammates on Thursday prior to the team's flight to Dallas.

"Yesterday was kind of the most running I've done, so to wake up and not really have too much discomfort was a good sign," Kuzma said. "Getting out here and doing the same thing [on Thursday], and so hopefully it's the same for tomorrow's game."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said the team's training staff will monitor Kuzma's recovery but that he expects the third-year forward to play on a limited basis on Friday night.

"[The training staff is] saying around 20 minutes," Vogel said. "So there'll be a little bit of a restriction there."

Kuzma suffered a stress reaction in his left ankle in August while playing for Team USA in advance of the FIBA World Cup. Kuzma was projected to make the final roster but had to miss the competition because of the injury. He's been undergoing an intensive rehabilitation regimen, everything from underwater treadmills to a battery of upper-body exercises to maintain his strength.

"It's going to take him a little bit to get into game shape," LeBron James said. "He hasn't played since USA basketball when he had the stress reaction. Obviously he's been training and working out, but like I always tell you guys, there's no substitution for game fatigue and game stamina. That will come, though. It's great to have him back on the floor."

Teammate Anthony Davis, who has been nursing a sore shoulder, said he "felt fine," but added that Thursday's practice was light in contact.

"You can't really simulate -- well, you can, but you don't want to really simulate -- stuff that happens in games and have a chance of reaggravating it in practice," Davis said. "So it felt good during practice, and we'll see how it feels [Friday]."

Davis offered praise for Kuzma for his commitment to the recovery process.

"He works his ass off to get back every day before practice, after practice," Davis said. "He's one of those guys you got to pull off the floor. He's been doing a great job with [assistant] coach Phil [Handy] on adding to his game, staying in the weight room, getting stronger, making sure his foot is OK, and it all paid off. The more I see him work, the more he inspires me."

Selected No. 27 overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 NBA draft, Kuzma was immediately dealt to the Lakers with Brook Lopez in exchange for D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. During his rookie season in Los Angeles, Kuzma quickly established himself as one of the most productive players in his draft class, averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds with a true shooting percentage of 54.9 as a rookie. Last season, Kuzma started 68 games and produced comparable numbers, though no player in the league who attempted 300 3-pointers shot a lower percentage (30.4) other than Russell Westbrook (29.0).

When the Lakers assembled their blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis last summer, Kuzma was the only member of a young core of assets that included Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart -- along with multiple first-round draft picks and swaps -- the Lakers declined to include in the deal.

Kuzma has expressed a desire to diversify his offensive game and improve his defense as he integrates himself into a Lakers team with title aspirations. Both at camp with Team USA and during individual workouts sessions with the Lakers staff during his recovery, Kuzma has been working on specific skills to bolster his skill set.

"I think that with me being a guy who can dribble, handle -- in pick-and-roll I can pop, post, shoot 3s, come off screens -- I think it's going to serve [the Lakers' ambitions] well," Kuzma said.

Kuzma said he's particularly eager to play in units that feature a front line of Davis, James and himself. He noted that Davis has traditionally excelled when playing the center position in smaller lineups.

"If you look back at the New Orleans Pelicans days when [Davis] was there, he played his best basketball when [Nicola] Mirotic was at the 4 and he was at the 5. I'm kind of similar in that aspect, spacing the floor and giving him space to operate down there. You can't really double him when me, Bron and him are on the floor. It's going to be exciting."