The last player to leave the practice court Tuesday was Brook Lopez. His teammates were all in the showers or receiving treatment on their aches and pains. Some of the coaches were taking their lunches in the atrium that Luke Walton has claimed as his personal zen garden.
Lopez was still on the floor, shooting jumpers while assistant coach Mark Madsen gathered the rebounds, trying to make up for lost time after back spasms kept him out of the first week of practices and the first two preseason games.
“I feel like I could go right now,” said Lopez, who will meet with doctors again on Wednesday but will not play in Wednesday’s exhibition against Denver in Ontario, either.
After participating in his second full-contact practice in three days, Lopez said he is hopeful that he will be able to make his debut Sunday in Las Vegas when the Lakers face the Sacramento Kings at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’ll be great to finally get in-game and get my feet wet and learn on the fly with guys,” Lopez said.
While Lopez is getting back into the swing of things, the Lakers were somewhat shorthanded on Tuesday. Lonzo Ball sat out practice as a precaution after suffering a mild left ankle sprain in Monday’s 113-107 loss to Denver, as did Brandon Ingram, who had a contusion after bumping heads with Malik Beasley during the game. Ingram is questionable for Wednesday’s game.
The Lakers’ highest-paid player and their most polished scorer, Lopez arrived in L.A. as the centerpiece of the trade that sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn. On media day, Magic Johnson referred to Lopez as “the key to this team,” but up to now, fans have not been able to witness what the 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star can bring to the floor.
“It’s tough,” Lopez said. “I’m not always the best patient. I can definitely get frustrated, but I clearly understand that all of their decisions are for my best interests.”
Coach Luke Walton has maintained that there is little rush to get Lopez on the floor. Likewise with the team’s other veteran center, Andrew Bogut, who has been cleared for full contact but has only participated in two practices since breaking his tibia as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers in March.
“As much as I want (Lopez) on the floor for the games,” Walton said, “I don’t want to rush him back at all. We want to keep him back once we get him, so that’s going to be up to the doctors and the trainers until they say he’s 100 percent, ready to go.”
When Lopez is on the floor, Johnson said, Julius Randle will have more room to operate in the paint, because opposing centers will have to follow Lopez out to the 3-point line.
“When they run the pick-and-roll with Brook and Lonzo,” Johnson said, “that big man is going to have to make a decision. What is going to happen? Because if they take Lonzo, he is going to kick it back to Lopez.”
Last season, Lopez made 134 3-pointers while averaging 20.5 points per game.