The Los Angeles Lakers have officially touched down at Walt Disney World and begun team practices, meaning they are one step closer toward resuming their pursuit of the 2020 NBA championship.
Los Angeles has a couple of new faces in Dion Waiters and JR Smith, both of whom will need all the preparation they can get before playing in games, especially since Avery Bradley decided to sit out playing. Waiters and Smith, alongside other guards on the roster, will need to find ways to make up for Bradley’s solid production.
While those two will likely play bit roles, Kyle Kuzma is still largely considered to be the Lakers’ x-factor when play resumes. Kuzma was having an up-and-down campaign while learning to play next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but showed major improvements right before the season was put on hold.
Now he’s looking for a fresh start. “I feel like it’s a brand new season,” Kuzma said of resuming the season in Orlando, Florida. “It’s zero-zero, no wins, no losses. Some players kind of shut it down and have to regain their body, so I look at it essentially as my fourth year.”
Along with the sense of another year under his belt, Kuzma also admitted he is doing well physically. “I feel unbelievable health-wise. I feel great,” he said.
“Throughout the season had some injuries, played through injuries, but the break allowed me to physically get 100%. Mentally, I’ve been reading, meditating and painting a lot. Just preparing my mind for the playoffs. I feel great.”
Kuzma’s view is a good way for the third-year player to stay sharp as the bubble represents an opportunity to establish winning habits during unprecedented circumstances. While the Lakers will carry their 49-14 record into seeding games, everything else is up for grabs come playoff time.
Regarding the time off, most players typically deal with undisclosed injuries and ailments throughout the course of the regular season, so the break had its benefits. Kuzma started the season on the shelf after he suffered a foot injury with Team USA, but it may be safe to say that and any other issues have resolved themselves.
While James and Davis will ultimately be the ones primarily leading the Lakers, Kuzma needs to be a consistent contributor if the team hopes to achieve its goals.
LeBron focused on championship, raising social awareness
While some players opted out of the NBA restart and others considered doing so, James was not part of either group.
“Never crossed my mind that we did not need to play this beautiful game of basketball that brings so many people together, brings happiness, brings joy to households and to so many families,” he said.
“From kids that are just born and their parents put on their favorite team’s clothing, to all the way you’re 60, 70 or 80 years old and you’re thinking about the game from a sport. This is all about sport, and I’m happy to be a part of one of the biggest sports in the world with the game of basketball.
“And I’m happy to have a platform where not only people will gain joy from the way I play the game, the way our team plays the game, but also for what I’m able to do off the floor as well. Being able to use my platform, use the NBA’s platform, to continue to talk about what’s going on, because I will not stop until I see real change for us as Black America, for African-Americans, for people of color. I believe I can do both.”
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