After numerous seasons of being focused on the development of young core, the Los Angeles Lakers are now on a completely different path.
The team is now full of players with a ton of experience, including some who’ve won championships. The notable exception, of course, is Kyle Kuzma.
Only in his third season, Kuzma has never tasted the NBA playoffs and really hasn’t played in any truly meaningful games in his career. With the Lakers eyeing an extended playoff run, the team will surely be reliant on Kuzma, but playing at a championship level on the biggest stage is something he has never experienced.
Kuzma understands that and recently spoke with Bill Oram of The Athletic about how he is continuing to grow into a championship-caliber player during the 2019-20 NBA season:
“My learning curve has been pretty accelerated in a sense,” Kuzma said before the game at TD Garden, “but for the better. … We’re playing like championship basketball right now. We’re not playing with a bunch of young guys that are still trying to find their way. I mean, I’m still trying to find my way in this league, but I’m learning how to play championship ball.”
Kuzma went further into detail about what he has been focusing on:
“Everybody knows that I’m a learner and I want to become a good player,” he said. “So everybody’s helping me. I think it reflects in my game all the way down from my defense learning from Avery, Dwight, A.D. and offensively just slowing down, develop my pick-and-roll game from other guys.”
One thing that has been apparent from the beginning for Kuzma is that he is willing to put in the work to improve his game. He has a reputation as a streaky scorer who doesn’t bring much else to the table, but he is determined to change that.
He has certainly shown some improvements over the past couple of seasons both as a defender, rebounder, and playmaker. Kuzma recently took on the challenge of guarding Russell Westbrook in a win back in January and he’s grabbed at least six rebounds in four of the last seven games — with multiple double-digit efforts as well.
With the 2019-20 NBA trade deadline behind him, Kuzma can now focus on preparing himself for the upcoming playoff run. His level of play will go a long way in the Lakers winning a championship and if he can contribute in multiple ways on the game’s biggest stage, the team’s ceiling increases exponentially.