Christian Wood is expected to return to the Los Angeles Lakers' frontcourt for Game 3 of their series with the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

The Lakers' backup center has been out since Feb. 14 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Wood's status update was first reported by Shams Charania.

“First and foremost, he has a couple more boxes to check before we consider” him returning,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said to the Athletic.

Game 3 will take place on Thursday at Arena in Los Angeles. The Nuggets took Game 1 on Saturday night, 114-103. Game 2 is at Ball Arena on Monday.

Wood has been around the Lakers more in recent weeks, though typically at home games.

In his first season with the Lakers (on a minimum contract), Wood — long an offense-first, stretch-5 — has primarily functioned as a part-time rim protector and defensive rebounder. In 50 games, the Los Angeles native has averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17.4 minutes.

The Lakers haven't issued any official updates on Wood since announcing his surgery in mid-March. Jarred Vanderbilt, out since Feb. 3 with a midfoot sprain, has not been ruled out for the series, though he was seen wearing a precautionary walking boot at practice on Friday.

In Wood's absence, Jaxson Hayes has been the Lakers' lone center with NBA experience behind Anthony Davis. As much as Hayes has improved over the past two months, he's a lanky, matchup-specific option in the postseason.

The Lakers could use Wood's size against Nikola Jokic and a physical Nuggets squad. Denver outrebounded the Lakers by nine in Game 1 and capitalized with 18 second-chance points. Afterward, Darvin Ham and multiple Lakers credited the Nuggets for being the more physical ballclub.

“We can't be bad at defensive rebounding and transition,” said Davis, who put up 32 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks in 44 hard-working minutes. “Something that we struggled with against this team since last playoffs. We can't not excel in one of them. Especially not both. Once again, that's our Achilles heel. We have to be better in both departments, if not, one.”

Hayes went scoreless with three rebounds in four minutes in Game 1. Frankly, he was outplayed by the rarely-deployed D'Andre Jordan, who saw nine minutes of action.

Ham played two reserves for more than 10 minutes. Taurean Prince (11 points, 20 minutes) was the only sub to score. LeBron and Rui Hachimura took turns on Jokic, who finished with 32 points on 15-of-23 shooting, 12 rebounds, and seven assists in 35 minutes.

“We could have been better. I thought we played some good ball tonight, but we could’ve been better,” said LeBron (27 points in 41 minutes). “We just don’t have much room for error versus this Denver team, especially on their home floor. It’s just a team that’s been through everything. Obviously, they’re the defending champions, so you gotta execute, you gotta make shots, you gotta defend. And then you can’t give them extra possession.”

Wood finished second on the Lakers, behind Anthony Davis and ahead of LeBron James, in defensive rebounding percentage during the regular season.

At media day, Ham and Rob Pelinka were specifically asked about the lack of a Dwight Howard-esque option behind Davis, with the Nuggets in mind. (After Game 1, Howard made his availability known.) In the 2023 Western Conference finals, the Lakers dusted off buyout addition Tristan Thompson to spell minutes on Jokic.