It goes without saying that it was never expected last summer that Kendrick Nunn would miss the entire season. It should also go without saying that he’s just as frustrated by not being able to play as Lakers fans were all season long.
Nunn spoke to the media for his exit interview on Monday and detailed what the last six months have been like as he has attempted, and repeatedly failed, to get back onto the court for the Lakers. But near the top of the list of things that should go without saying, Nunn also confirmed he would be picking up his player option for next season.
His reasoning for that choice was fairly obvious, as he simply said out loud what most people were probably thinking in their heads.
“Knowing I just took this entire year off, it’s a no-brainer for me to opt-in,” Nunn said.
Nunn’s player option is for $5.2 million next season and makes him one of four players — LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker the others — that would be guaranteed contracts on the roster next season. Russell Westbrook is likely to accept his player option, and the team holds options for Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel that could all potentially result in them returning.
After playing in the first four preseason games for the Lakers, Nunn missed time with a sprained ankle. But that ankle injury turned into a bone bruise in his knee which turned into an entire season of starts and stops in his rehab.
Nunn repeatedly tried to “ramp up” his activity — a phrase that was attached to him all season long — only to suffer a setback. Eventually after another setback in March, Nunn came to the harsh realization that this would be a lost year.
“Throughout the season,” Nunn said, “I’m pretty sure you’ve guys noticed that I’ve always been trying to ramp up to dive back into the season and there’s been times where – early January, I tried to ramp it up, get set back. And then maybe like the beginning of March, tried to ramp it up again to get ready to play and then another setback. So, that was just telling me that it’s not healed yet and I’m not ready to play. So, I just had to accept that and just take a step back and truly sit back and let that thing heal.”
The updates on Nunn got more and more sparse as the season came to a close. After reports that he could be back toward the end of March, the reports went away for nearly the entirety of March until then-head coach Frank Vogel more or less confirmed Nunn would not be returning this year.
One of the questions about Nunn’s injury is how a sprained ankle turned into a season-ending injury. Nunn noted that it was not any singular injury, but consistent wear and tear throughout his career that culminated in the bone bruise.
“I initially felt it after I twisted my ankle,” Nunn said. “Just going back and thinking — I’ve had plenty of time to think of what actually caused the bone bruise — just over time, the amount of work that I’ve put in, the recovery didn’t match. All that impact and stress, overtraining and not getting enough recovery. You know what I’m saying, doing the ice after every workout, over years and years, that adds up and that impact on your legs and knees, it shows. Wear and tear is pretty much what (the cause) is.”
Frustrations and constant questions about when he would return during the season led to Nunn tweeting out an update that doubled as a call for patience from the fans in late January.
Lake Show I promise I want to be out there helping my team. Stay patient with me. This process has been just as frustrating for me. I’ll return as soon as I’m healthy! It’ll be worth the wait
— Kendrick Nunn (@nunnbetter_) January 21, 2022
On Monday, Nunn talked about his mindset in that moment, and what led to him sending out the tweet.
“I got a lot of feedback throughout the year, whether that’s fans or peers, asking when I’m going to be back, just trying to rush that process,” Nunn said. “And that’s one thing that you can’t and shouldn’t do. I can’t rush my body to heal faster than it naturally does, so I just had to accept that and be as patient as possible with it because it’s frustrating. It took longer than I expected (to heal) so I just had to be patient with it and let it heal. And I wanted to send out (a tweet to) the fans and everybody let them know I’m doing everything I can and I’m waiting to get back as soon as I can.”
Unfortunately for all parties involved, the patience never paid off in production this season. But Nunn will head into the offseason feeling healthy and looking to build back the conditioning, strength and time he lost this season.
“That was extremely frustrating for me because I never saw that coming where I have to take a whole year to get healthy,” Nunn said. “But I had to take that time and I’m feeling pretty good now.
“I’ll definitely take this summer to do my work and be prepared for next season.”
Once he gets on the floor again, he will give the Lakers a weapon they literally did not have, which goes without saying. A healthy summer and time to hopefully, finally, ramp up all the way would have him ready to make an impact for the Lakers next year, and put an end to all the frustrations for him attached to the 2021-22 season, rewarding himself and the Lakers for their patience in the process.