Since the 2019-20 season resumed on the Walt Disney World campus, the Los Angeles Lakers have largely struggled to regain their footing.
While most of the team is shaking the rust off from the four-month layoff, Kyle Kuzma hit the ground running and arguably been their best player in the bubble. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel publicly declared as much.
Kuzma, who appears healthy, has taken his game up a notch on both ends of the floor and is establishing himself as the team’s third star. He enjoyed a breakout moment by sinking a game-winning 3-pointer against the Denver Nuggets during the seeding games.
It came as somewhat of a surprise that the play was drawn up for Kuzma, but he, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Vogel all explained that was common during practices and intrasquad scrimmages in the bubble.
“I think just over training camp, I came prepared, I came ready, came in shape, put a lot of work in during quarantine on my shot,” Kuzma said. He believes that commitment earned confidence from teammates that wasn’t necessarily existent at the beginning of the season.
“Coming in, they saw a different type of pep in my step. From there I just kept it going. It feels good when your teammates trust you. It’s definitely night and day from the first part of the season to now,” Kuzma added.
Vogel noted the change, adding that the rest of the roster is able to lean on Kuzma on important possessions. “He’s had more poise about his game of late,” Vogel said. “Obviously he’s shooting the ball extremely well from the perimeter, so guys are looking for him on the 3-point line.
“When he’s making plays — whether it’s in pindowns, pick-and-rolls or two-man action and making solid reads — they can call his number more often.”
All year long, Kuzma has been touted as the x-factor for the Lakers and his play of late has been encouraging. James and Davis will always be the focal point for opposing defenses, so to have another threat in Kuzma only makes the purple and gold much more of a threat come postseason time.
James proclaimed Kuzma as the key to winning a championship, so it will be interesting to see if the young wing is able to live up to those lofty expectations.
Kuzma throws shooting environment out the window
Part of Kuzma excelling inside the bubble has been strong shooting, particularly when compared to other Lakers. There has been some speculation struggles are tied to depth perception and other factors with the arenas being used.
Kuzma, however, dismissed that as being a factor now more than one month into play. “We’ve got proven shooters that have hit big shots in the playoffs numerous times,” he said. “It’s all about just having that confidence. That’s the biggest thing, just having confidence and letting it fly.”
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