On Tuesday, an MRI revealed a moderate right ankle sprain for Los Angeles Lakers center Brook Lopez after he landed on Kevin Durant's foot during the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-114 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Lopez did not play the entire second half or the overtime session of Monday's game, though initial x-rays came back negative. As such, Lopez did not suffer a fracture. The MRI results, though, confirmed the gravity of the sprain after Lopez left STAPLES Center on crutches.
The Lakers stated that Lopez will be reevaluated after three weeks, which points to the center missing a minimum of 12 games due to the injury.
The Lakers have two young centers that can gain experience with Lopez out. Rookie Thomas Bryant is a 20-year-old rookie that exudes energy and shoots three-pointers. He's been turning heads with the South Bay Lakers and is currently with the parent squad on its two-game trip to Houston and Golden State.
Also, the team has 20-year-old Ivica Zubac, who is in his second season with the team and started 11 games during his rookie season. Zubac is more of a traditional center with a larger frame and more NBA experience, but the Croatian played in a game for the South Bay Lakers on Tuesday morning.
Already, the Lakers are starting two 20-year-olds in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, so Lakers coach Luke Walton may opt to go with the experience of backup center Andrew Bogut to balance the youth.
Another alternative, of course, is to change styles and play with a smaller starting lineup. Julius Randle can step into the starting lineup and play as a small-ball center. Randle often assumes this role late in games. Nance and Randle often played together late in games during Walton's first season on the bench, but that combination has been pushed out because neither big man can shoot from outside and stretch the floor.
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Instead, Walton may opt to start rookie Kyle Kuzma at power forward and push Nance to center, an experiment that the coach has used with limited success thus far. The possibility of using Randle and Kuzma as starters and pushing Nance to the bench should also be on the table, but Walton has been a fan of Nance's defense and energy in the starting unit.
Three weeks is a long time, so Walton will likely try more than one of the aforementioned options over that stretch.
With Lopez ruled out for Wednesday's game in Houston and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope unable to travel out of state due to a court order stemming from a DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers could conceivably shuffle the starting deck and start Ball, rookie Josh Hart, Ingram, Kuzma and Bryant. That would amount to four rookies and a second-year player aged 20 years old starting for the Lakers. Hart started in place of Caldwell-Pope in Cleveland when the shooting guard missed the game due to the same issue.
Walton isn't likely to make that leap into youth just yet, but that same lineup with Nance starting in place of Kuzma is entirely conceivable and hardly kills the average age. Kuzma is 22, while Nance is a senior citizen on the Lakers at age 24.
Regardless of how he decides to lineup his team on Wednesday and beyond, Walton will likely have to rely on even more youth than ever before with Lopez out injured.