After a successful showing in his first playoffs, Kyle Kuzma has built upon that during the 2020-21 season. Although Kuzma is capable of carrying more of an offensive burden, he has happily accepted his role off the bench as a rebounder and hustle guy.
His knack for making winning plays has drawn praise from teammates like Anthony Davis and he is a large reason why the team sits at 17-6.
In the Los Angeles Lakers’ latest win against the Denver Nuggets, Kuzma scored a respectable 11 points but added two offensive rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 25 minutes. “I feel like he’s at peace with what’s being asked of him, and is going out there and killing it,” head coach Frank Vogel said.
“What we talked about a lot last year, he’s being a star in his role. Him coming in and knocking down 3s, and making the right play offensively, sometimes that’s going to lead to a high scoring night, sometimes it’s going to lead to creating for others.
“But him playing as hard as he does on both ends of the ball, crashing the boards every single time, running the floor every single time, working his tail off on the defensive end, that’s part of our identity.
“Guys don’t always have that ability to play hard like that naturally. Sometimes you have to pull it out of people, but you don’t have to pull it out of Kuz. That’s just the way he plays. He’s been a big part of our culture here the last two years.
“I know he’s been here longer than I’ve been here, but what we did last year, he was a big part and he’s a big part of what we’re doing this year.”
Kuzma entered the league with a scorer’s mentality, but his strides on the defensive end have been a welcomed development for the Lakers. Aside from defense, rebounding has been a new wrinkle to his overall game and that has bailed Los Angeles out several times already.
This version of Kuzma is the perfect fit for the Lakers and an encouraging sign for his growth as a player.
Vogel believes Kuzma’s contract extension only small part of comfortability with role
It looked like Kuzma and the Lakers would not be able to get an extension done, but the two sides agreed on a respectable three-year, $40 million deal at the deadline in December. While the contract security must be a relief, Vogel does not believe it is the primary reason why Kuzma has played well this season.
“I think that may play a small part, but I really think with Kuz it’s a very small part,” Vogel recently explained. “We saw him do this last year. You saw him sacrifice without the contract extension. Sacrificed his individual scoring numbers and find ways to impact winning in any way that he can.
“Whether it was defense, rebounding or running the floor. Just bringing overall energy. I thought the last two games he’s done that exceptionally well. But to think it’s because of comfort with the contract, I don’t think people should see it that way. I think he’s just trying to win games and do whatever he can to help this team win. That’s commendable.”
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