On Wednesday morning deep in the heart of Texas, the Los Angeles Lakers received a positive boost as Larry Nance Jr. went through shootaround and now expects to play against the Houston Rockets. Nance had missed LA's previous two games due to a right knee contusion, and the Lakers lost both games by a narrow margin.
Larry Nance Jr. took part in shoot-around. He also participated in team-wide half-court shooting contest. He will play tonight vs. HOU. — Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 7, 2016
While Nance's inclusion would not necessarily have resulted in a victory, the forward' return is a big boost for a team that has been extremely shorthanded in recent days. LA Lakers coach Luke Walton is surely welcoming the return.
Following a recent loss to the Golden State Warriors in late November, Walton hinted at Nance's importance to the bench unit: "Larry's so key to the versatility of that second unit that if we would have started him, when I was sitting there mapping out different scenarios, the second unit just didn't seem like it would work when (the Warriors) have (Kevin Durant) and Draymond (Green) out there at the 4-5 because we feel completely comfortable out there when we have Larry and (Tarik) Black switching and guarding perimeter players."
As illustrated in the coach's words, Nance's defensive versatility plays a major role in the second unit's success. Nance featuring in a bench role seemingly has as much to do with Julius Randle's talent level as it does with the 23-year-old fitting with the second unit. Nance's return should give the injury-ridden Lakers a welcome boost on Wednesday.
D'Angelo Russell (knee) met with team doctors in Los Angeles yesterday and has been cleared for on-court basketball activities. — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 7, 2016
In addition to the good news with Nance, the Lakers also received the green light to put point guard D'Angelo Russell back on the practice court. Russell did not travel with the team for Wednesday's game and has already missed 10 games due to a sore knee. The current hope appears to be pushing for a return as early as Monday night in Sacramento, when LA launches on a seven-game road trip.
Nick Young and Tarik Black also did not expect to travel to Houston. The latter is recovering from a sprained ankle suffered during Monday's loss to Utah, while the former is recovering from a strained calf. According to Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, Young surprisingly made the trip and took shots on Wednesday morning in Houston with hopes to improve his status and return ahead of schedule.
Young's original timeline called for two to four weeks on the sidelines, so a return on Monday would mean the 31-year-old beats the minimum timeline by a couple of days.
Jose Calderon is also out for the Lakers on Wednesday night, as the Lakers take on the Houston Rockets. Tip-off is 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.