The Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up their seeding games against longtime division rival, the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers suffered a bit of a lopsided loss, but it was more of an exhibition than an actual game as they had already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and the Kings were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs earlier in the week.
Several key players did not suit up, while LeBron James only saw the floor in the first half. It was a lackluster close to their regular season, but Los Angeles can take solace in the fact that role players like Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso had previously shined and looked ready to take on their first postseason.
“I’m happy for those guys,” former Lakers and current Kings head coach Luke Walton said. “Part of coaching and why I like coaching so much is the connection and relationships you make with the players that you go through battles with.
“Anytime I see guys I’ve coached having success, it’s a feeling of joy and happiness.”
Walton is no stranger to the storied franchise as Los Angeles drafted him in 2003, spending nine years with the Lakers before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He eventually made his way back to the organization as the head coach during the team’s rebuilding years, playing a part in the seasons Kuzma and Caruso developed.
Although Walton lost numerous games, he still should receive some credit for how well Kuzma and Caruso have looked. The two players are integral pieces on a title contender and will likely see heavy minutes once the playoffs begin, a testament to how hard they have worked since entering the league.
James recently admitted that the Lakers are not in playoff mode yet, but will need to switch that gear soon with the postseason right around the corner.
Kuzma excited for first playoff run
Kuzma was under a lot of scrutiny at the beginning of the season as the forward looked out of sorts playing next to James and Anthony Davis.
However, Kuzma has quickly turned into the clear-cut third option for Los Angeles as he was lights out during the seeding games in Orlando. His blend of scoring and improved defense has made him an ideal piece next to the superstar duo and how far they go will depend on if he can keep this productivity up in the postseason.
“I’m excited,” Kuzma said. “My first two years in the league we didn’t get to the playoffs, and I’m really excited because they kind of show you what you’re made of. You see the difference between guys who actually love the game of basketball and who love the lifestyle.
“I think the ultra competitiveness in me and the rest of my teammates, it’s going to be fun out there to play.”
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