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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. nears return after missing a month because of knee injury

Larry Nance Jr. averaged 7.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 28 games this season before he injured his left knee on Dec. 20.
(Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

The Lakers ruled out Larry Nance Jr. for Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, but he is nearing his return to playing.

Nance went through a full practice Thursday at the Toyota Sports Center and impressed Lakers Coach Luke Walton.

“Yesterday they left out the last thing, more physical drills,” Nance said Thursday. “Today I went through those. It’s just been a progression and today was the next step of that progression so I went through the whole thing today. … That’s definitely a medical call. It’s their job to clear me. Apparently I’ve got a few more tests to pass and everything. I’m just looking forward to getting back.”

Nance has not played since Dec. 20 when he suffered a bone bruise on his left knee while fighting for a loose ball with Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller. Although the Lakers initially feared a worse injury, a medical examination showed no structural damage for Nance.

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Nance began doing one-on-one drills Sunday with rookie Ivica Zubac. Zubac said he won their series, 3-2, but Nance disputed Zubac’s claim.

“Isn’t it always like a child’s job to talk trash to their dad?” Nance said. “I talk trash to my dad. He hasn’t beaten me, I haven’t beaten my dad. That’s just how it goes.”

Nance progressed to two-on-two drills this week and a full practice Thursday.

“He looked good today,” Walton said. “The way I saw him play he looked like he could play. But that’s not a medical opinion that’s just me watching him play basketball.”

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Ingram improves shooting

While rookie Brandon Ingram’s extra shooting has garnered attention lately, it’s really been part of his routine all season.

“Repetition coming in every day, working on different things involved in my shot, try to go game speed all the time,” Ingram said of his shooting regimen. “Doing things with [Lakers assistant] Brian Keefe and the other coaches on the floor. It’s just been good for me and definitely transfers into the game.”

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Keefe has encouraged Ingram to trust the work he’s doing. And Ingram is starting to see some of the rewards. Ingram was shooting 34.7% through the end of December. In January he has made 46.8% of his shots.

Walton has previously said part of Ingram’s transition to the NBA has involved acclimating to NBA defense. Players close on him more quickly when he’s shooting than they did in college.

“You never know what you’re gonna go through until you’re actually put into it,” Ingram said. “It definitely took going into games and seeing what it was like and then coming back and working. So I tried to adjust to it.”

Nicknaming Zubac

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Nance feigned ignorance when asked a question about Zubac after practice on Thursday.

“Who?” he asked before pretending to understand. “Ohhhhh, Zu Alcindor. Kareem Abdul-Zabbar.”

Zubac’s name and affable personality have led to what he said are hundreds of nicknames from his teammates. The two Nance mentioned at first referenced Zubac’s sky hook, which he has worked on with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the former Lew Alcindor.

Nance was asked for his other favorite Zubac nicknames.

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“I said one, Kareem Abdul-Zabbar,” Nance said. “Zuol Deng. Zulius Randle. Zwight Howard. It’s gotta be a U. Zupac. Zu Williams.”

Zupac? Can he rap?

“Well, no actually,” Nance said. “He likes to insert himself in Tupac songs. 2 of Amerikaz, sorry, 2 of Zamerikaz Most Wanted. Stuff like that.”

Etc.

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Luol Deng is questionable for Friday’s game with a sprained right wrist. Deng suffered the injury Sunday against the Detroit Pistons. Walton said Deng’s wrist bothered him a little bit during shoot-around Tuesday morning, but he still did a pregame workout. That workout caused significant pain in Deng’s wrist. … The NBA and the players association announced Thursday that the new collective bargaining agreement has been signed. The deal will last from July 1, 2017 through the 2023-24 season.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

@taniaganguli


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