The Los Angeles Lakers approached the 2020 NBA Playoffs with a roster made of stars in Anthony Davis and LeBron James, experienced veterans and players who had never reached the postseason before.
The Orlando bubble is something of a hoops crash course for Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker, who are making their respective first playoff appearance. They needed to adapt quickly and endure a substantial pressure that stems from playing on a championship team — and alongside James, a three-time NBA champion, no less.
But the Lakers role players have fared well, providing their All-Star teammates with substantial support when called upon and receiving praise from James himself.
For Kuzma, some of that stems from advice Tyson Chandler gave him while the two were Lakers teammates. “Not many people have an opportunity to get to this part of the playoffs, and you can’t really take it for granted,” Kuzma recently said.
“I’ll always remember my second year in the league and Tyson Chandler being in the locker room and saying, ‘I’ve played in the league 18 years and I’ve only been to the Finals once.’ That’s always stuck with me. Just live in the moment.
“You never know when you’ll get back to this plateau, so just take it all in, embrace it and attack it head on, because you never know if you’ll get back.”
Kuzma has been the Lakers’ third scorer in the playoffs, averaging 10.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. But it is the defense he has excelled at during the NBA restart, making his shifts off the bench particularly valuable.
Kuzma: Lakers were not ‘focused’ on Clippers
The L.A. Clippers were long expected to face the Lakers in the Battle for Los Angeles-themed Western Conference Finals. But the Denver Nuggets stunned the Clippers and sent the favorites home after a seven-game thriller, presenting the NBA with one of the biggest upsets of the season.
But Kuzma said the Lakers were never prematurely assuming they would face the Clippers on the way to the NBA Finals. “We’re not focused on the Clippers and we never really were. It’s all about who’s in front of you,” he said.
“When you focus on other teams, instead of taking care of your food, [expletive] happens like that.”
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