The word “indefinitely” is one of the most ominous in sports, and never more so than when it’s being attached to news about a very tall guy’s foot. Theoretically it can mean “He could be fine any time now, we just don’t know how soon.” In practice, far more often than not it means “This man’s body has fallen into several detached pieces.”
On a related note, the Los Angeles Lakers announced today that forward Kyle Kuzma will be out indefinitely, due to a “stress reaction” in his foot. According to the team, he developed the injury while training with Team USA over the summer. His last Team USA appearance was an Aug. 24 exhibition win over Australia, in which he scored 12 points in slightly more than 19 minutes of playing time.
A stress reaction, as Dr. Jordan Metzl of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery explained to Runner’s World back in May, “happens when the bone starts to swell inside,” usually as a result of an increase in workload; it’s a sign that the bone is being pushed past its limits. It needs rest and inactivity in order to heal, or it can devolve into a stress fracture, a much worse injury with a much longer timetable for recovery.
This may not seem like a big deal in and of itself, and hopefully it isn’t one; if nothing else it’s good Kuzma’s doctors caught this before it became a fracture. But foot injuries, particularly stress-related ones, and particularly in taller players, seem to have a way of turning into chronic problems in the NBA. A 6-foot-9, 220-pound body is a lot for foot-bones to carry around, and if they struggle to do it when you’re 24 years old, it isn’t likely they’ll improve with age and the accumulated wear of a full-time professional basketball job.
More immediately, this is bad news for the Lakers. You may recall that Kuzma was the only member of the team’s assortment of young rookie-contract talents whom the front office, viewing him as both a key building block for the future and a versatile frontcourt partner for its present-day pursuit of a championship, reportedly put off-limits in its pursuit of a trade for Anthony Davis. Those title hopes—as well as the possibility the Lakers might cobble together any kind of non-comedic frontcourt rotation—seem to be disappearing beneath a wave of crabmeat right now.
DeMarcus Cousins, who briefly looked like a steal when the team signed him to a one-year deal in July, tore his ACL in a mid-August workout and is out for at least the entire 2019-20 season, if not the rest of his life. He’d have been the center in huge lineups featuring Davis at his preferred power-forward spot. Now Kuzma, who’d likely have been the small forward in those huge lineups as well as the four in smaller and rangier ones, is out for at least the first three weeks of training camp, with the type of injury that requires total inactivity to heal, and that tends to linger.
I guess this means more playing time for JaVale McGee, uh, indefinitely.