In a measuring stick game during the 2019-20 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers fell short to the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day despite having a 15-point lead.
While the media will focus on the negatives, one bright spot was Kyle Kuzma, who finished with 25 points and four rebounds in just 28 minutes off the bench for the Lakers.
“This is what I look like when I’m healthy,” Kuzma said after the team’s 111-106 loss to the Clippers. “I’m confident in my body. Like I said, I’ve been hurt all year. This is the best I’ve felt and my play the last few games has reflected it.”
Along with the three injuries, Kuzma playing with two All-Star players has not been an easy adjustment, but he can use this Clippers game as a blueprint to be successful.
“I just play my game and be me,” Kuzma said.
“Space the floor, that’s one thing. With LeBron and AD, those guys need space to operate and work. Anytime I get the ball, I’m looking to score and just be there for them. If they get stopped… just when they pass it, be ready to shoot.”
When the Lakers traded their entire young core and multiple draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis in July, Kuzma naturally became the team’s third option now.
As Kuzma demonstrated improved defense and playmaking with Team USA, there was great optimism he could fill this role until he suffered a stress reaction in his left foot.
Although Kuzma only missed the first four games, missing 2019 NBA training camp and preseason proved to be a challenge with a new coaching staff and players.
With Kuzma completely healthy again, he is viewed as the team’s X-factor. Along with his scoring, the hope is he can provide a more all-around game as the Lakers are in pursuit of their first championship since the 2009-10 season.
And with there being uncertainty surrounding James’ groin injury, the Lakers may need him to step up even more.