When the 2019-20 NBA season was put on hiatus due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Los Angeles Lakers had an impressive 49-14 record, which was the best in the Western Conference by over five games.
They also started the season at 24-3 before a four game losing streak. While the fast start was led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, part of the team’s success came from their excellent chemistry and the star in your role mantra that veterans such as Jared Dudley live by.
Any team with James and Davis would likely be successful, but the level at which the Lakers were playing at before the shutdown can only be attained when role players are in sync.
“I think the way we jumped out was because of our chemistry,” Dudley said in an interview with LakersNation.com. “Obviously you had LeBron and A.D. set the tone and we had players already established in the league that knew their role. So no one came in looking to expand their role.”
As the Lakers collectively were looking to find their footing, that particularly applied to Kyle Kuzma in his quest to be a sixth man. “The only one we tried to help with that was Kuzma,” Dudley said of settling into a role.
“His ceiling is still open. We don’t know what his ceiling technically is because of his height, his shooting range. When you’re playing for the past Laker teams that didn’t really have a good brand of basketball and winning yet, what we have now is a winning culture and players who know their role, he’s trying to balance it.
“Knowing when to be aggressive and when not. The ball’s in Bron’s hands more, arguably the second- or third-best player in the world plays his position so he’s trying to figure it out.”
While Kuzma did have his struggles, he was helped by the fact that everybody else had a defined role, making it easier for him to transition. “Everyone else knew what we already do and it’s only a matter of time before we figure it out,” Dudley added.
There’s no doubting that the third-year forward had troubles adjusting to being a role player on a winning team. However, in the weeks prior to the hiatus, Kuzma picked up his intensity, becoming more defense- and rebounding-oriented, something the Lakers definitely needed.
The Lakers have one of the most talented rosters in basketball, and what helps them is that everyone knows exactly what they’re supposed to do on a nightly basis.