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Lakers, Kyle Kuzma

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What Kyle Kuzma’s return means for Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has been sidelined through the early stages of this season. However, the 24-year-old is set to make his return to the lineup for Friday night’s road game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed the news:

So, what does Kuzma’s return mean for the Lakers, who are currently holding a 3-1 record behind the solid play of LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

The obvious answer is depth. The Lakers have several players listed on their injury report, including DeMarcus Cousins (out for the season with a torn ACL) and Rajon Rondo, who’s not expected to play during a three-game trip due to a sore right calf.

Kuzma is expected to be on a minutes restriction for Friday’s matchup against the Mavericks, possibly seeing 15 to 20 minutes of action. He’ll likely come off the bench, but his presence on the floor will be a welcomed sight for the Lakers.

The next answer is production. In his 70 appearances with the Lakers last season (68 starts), Kuzma racked up averages of 18.7 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field (30.3 percent from beyond the arc), 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 33.1 minutes per outing. That extra shot creation and scoring punch will be welcomed in the lineup.

The Lakers made major headlines this offseason when they traded for Anthony Davis. As part of the deal, Los Angeles sent several members of its young core to the Pelicans, including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.

Kuzma, however, was retained. The Lakers are clearly infatuated with Kuzma and view him as a potential third star to go along with LeBron and AD. Once Los Angeles didn’t get Kawhi Leonard, more pressure shifted to Kuzma to live up to that billing after two stellar seasons in the NBA.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, Kuzma participated in a practice session with the South Bay Lakers on Wednesday. He then took part in his first practice run with the Lakers on Thursday:

“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.”

Kuzma suffered a stress reaction in his left ankle in August while playing for Team USA. He has been working hard toward recovery since, but LeBron knows it will take some time for his young teammate to get into game shape. Ultimately, though, The King is happy to have Kuz back:

“It’s going to take him a little bit to get into game shape,” James told ESPN. “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.”

Friday night’s Lakers-Mavs game is scheduled to tip inside the American Airlines Center at 9:30 p.m. ET, with ESPN having live broadcast coverage.

Let’s see how Kuzma fares in his first game back.