When Larry Nance Jr. comes back after breaking his left hand, Lakers coach Luke Walton expects to return him to the starting lineup.
That should be on Monday in the Lakers' road game against the Clippers.
"It was good to have him back out there," Walton said after Nance participated fully in Saturday's practice. "I think he'll be good to go by Monday. … If he's good to go and cleared and ready, I don't see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup."
Nance broke his hand on Nov. 2 in Portland and was told then that his recovery would take anywhere from four to six weeks. The injury was a fracture to his second metacarpal, the bone that begins in the hand and extends out to become the index finger.
But that timetable didn't sit right with Nance.
He had surgery on Nov. 3 and said his cast came off three days later, replaced by a splint. Just two and a half weeks removed from the surgery, Nance was begging for a return but the Lakers wanted to be cautious, especially given his age and how much he uses both of his hands while playing.
"These guys pulled me back a little bit, and I'm grateful for that because I felt great today," Nance said.
He said practiced under the observation of head trainer Marco Nunez "to make sure I didn't do anything dumb."
He almost did at one point during practice: He dunked the ball and then hung on to the rim with both hands. He took a moment before realizing that wasn't a great idea. He said his hand didn't hurt from doing that, but that he knew he shouldn't be pushing it.
Kyle Kuzma has been starting while Nance was recovering from the injury. He's averaged 16.8 points a game, making him the Lakers' leading scorer, and is second among rookies league-wide in scoring. Only Philadelphia's Ben Simmons has averaged more points than Kuzma.
"We were scoring the heck out of the ball," Nance said of what he noticed about the Lakers during his absence. "Kuz was outstanding. Julius [Randle] was outstanding. BI [Brandon Ingram] had a heck of a rhythm going. Different guys were stepping up at different times. Offensively we looked awesome. I think it'll help on the rebounding end a little bit and get the defense back to where it once was."
That's all part of what Walton is seeking with Nance's return.
"I think our rebounding's gone down," Walton said. "Just the versatility at that four spot, the way we like to play, him being able to defend multiple positions. Obviously he's got some years in the league. For a young team that's pretty valuable. Larry's great at doing all the little things that help teams win that don't get a lot of credit. And he's got the ability and the skill to do the fancy things too."
Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball's study of playing defense has combined advice from his coaches and film study. "You get to see where the screens are coming from, how fast people are coming up to set them," Ball said. "Different plays that are being called. So terminology, you get to learn everything. The rest of it's just effort." … The Lakers practiced Saturday for the first time since their Wednesday game. It was a rare two-day break for the players, and they were rusty when they returned. "We planned today's practice to have a lot of running involved, a lot of competition involved," Walton said. "They brought great energy. As far as turnovers were concerned, we were definitely rusty." … The Lakers will have one more practice on Sunday before returning to game action on Monday.