The Los Angeles Lakers begin the quest for their 18th championship in franchise history on Wednesday night, three days before the actual start of the playoffs. Due to injuries, the Lakers fell to the No. 7 seed, meaning they’ll take place in the first-ever Play-In Tournament and face the red-hot Golden State Warriors.
For Kyle Kuzma and a few other role players, the playoffs are now second nature, as the team is coming off of an NBA championship and is on a quest to repeat. Beyond LeBron James and Anthony Davis, six of their rostered players went through last season’s playoffs to win it all.
Even though over half the roster was there for the 2020 championship, Kuzma explained why he doesn’t feel that the team’s championship pedigree will be utilized in the Play-In Game. “Nothing. I don’t really think much at all,” Kuzma said of how much L.A. can draw from last season. “We have a different team. Players on this team have different roles than last year.
“We have new guys that haven’t really been in a situation like this before and we have to build our own story and journey out of this one. Obviously, you can relate a little bit. You have certain guys that have been on this roster. Five or six of us have played in the [NBA] Finals and the playoffs last year, but the makeup of this team is much different.”
Generally, Kuzma is still positive about the team’s direction. “I think we’re still a working progress. I think we’ve made positive steps in the right direction. I think we’ve done a great job of integrating people and then getting people back in and getting them up to speed and still trying to gel everyone at the same time. I like it.”
While it’s true that the Lakers are integrating plenty of new pieces into completely different roles, there are still plenty of people with championship experience. L.A. has a great blend this season of proven veterans and talented players who are hungry for their first win.
It will be interesting to see how the championship experience of some on the roster helps to uplift the players without any. The most important thing, however, is getting the first win of the postseason on Wednesday against a difficult opponent. From there, the team can move forward and focus on their first-round matchup.
Kuzma discusses teams avoiding Lakers
After the L.A. Clippers and Denver Nuggets seemingly tanked their final regular-season games in an attempt to avoid seeing the Lakers, Kuzma gave his thoughts on what could be viewed as them ducking L.A. “Well, I think you have to take a step back. It’s easy to say a team is ducking another team or hiding from another team, but when you’re trying to win championships and when you’re trying to advance, playoffs is all about strategy.
“Like I said earlier, a lot of times seeding matters and if in your first round you want a team that you’re favorable against and you like that matchup, of course you want that matchup. So you go to the second round and get your feet wet a little bit, so I don’t look at it as ducking or anything like that. It’s more so of a strategy.”
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