Next to Kyle Kuzma’s left foot on the floorof the Lakers’ triumphant locker room was a contraption he described as a “cold compression” that will serve as his friend for the “next couple of weeks” when the forward navigates his way back into the fold from the injury ward.
His season debut Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks had to be seen as a success by Kuzma and the Lakers, considering he had not played competitive basketball for more than two months while recovering from a stress reaction in his left ankle.
The 18 minutes and 44 seconds Kuzma played against the Mavericks resulted in him scoring nine points and collecting three rebounds. He missed all four of his three-point attempts and was just three-for-eight shooting from the field.
But the key was that Kuzma was in the lineup, his first action since playing for Team USA against the Australian national team on Aug. 22, when he dropped 12 points in another of his strong outings while preparing for the FIBA World Cup.
On Aug. 24, Team USA announced Kuzma was out because of a left ankle injury that was more serious than originally thought.
His reminder of that injury will be the constant treatment Kuzma still needs, including his cold compression box.
“I’ll probably have it for a while,” Kuzma said after the Lakers beat Dallas 119-110 in overtime at American Airlines Center. “It’s a cold compression that I need, especially this being my first game, being able to size down my inflammation, if I have any.”
Kuzma checked into the game against the Mavericks for the first time at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter.
He missed his first shot, a 26-footer. He scored his first point after being fouled by Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis on a drive to the basket, making one of two free throws.
He made his first shot by cutting down the lane and scoring off a pass from Avery Bradley.
Through it all, Kuzma realized that his legs aren’t there yet, that after practicing with the South Bay Lakers on Wednesday and the Lakers on Thursday, he has a ways to go before his conditioning is up for NBA competition.
“They were pretty good,” Kuzma said about his legs. “Certain points I got tired. I definitely felt it, sinking to the ground. But that’s expected after two practices.”
Since he was on a minutes restriction, Kuzma knew his allotted time of 15-20 minutes was winding down in the fourth quarter.
Kuzma scored on a floater to pull the Lakers to within 90-84 in the fourth, forcing the Mavericks to call a timeout with 8:21 left.
When play resumed, Kuzma was on the bench resting, where he stayed into the overtime, reminding assistant coach Jason Kidd he still had something left.
“Yeah, I told JKidd the last like 35 seconds of overtime, I told him I had like a minute left in my restrictions,” a smiling Kuzma said. “But hopefully we can bump that up in San Antonio.”
The Lakers continue their three-game trip on Sunday against the Spurs and then Tuesday in Chicago against the Bulls.
AT SAN ANTONIO
When: 4 p.m., Sunday
On the Air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: At 4-1, the Spurs still are one of the top teams in the Western Conference. They are ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring at 116.2 points per game and fifth in field-goal percentage at 47.4%. Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge is fifth in the NBA in blocked shots at 2.20 per game. Lakers forward Anthony Davis is first in the league in blocked shots (2.80) and Lakers reserve center Dwight Howard is second (2.40).