When the Los Angeles Lakers opened the 2019-2020 season against their Staples Center co-tenant L.A. Clippers, Kyle Kuzma was touted as a potential third star, alongside the team’s superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
With the Lakers set to open the restart again against the Clippers, Kuzma isn’t being looked at in the same light. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel attributed Kuzma’s shaky season to myriad of injuries and has heaped praise on the third-year forward ever since they arrived in Orlando.
Kuzma credited his renewed focus to time off. “I’m just healthy and confident,” he said. “Used the time we were quarantined to try and get better as much as I could. I’m just reaping the benefits by being confident.”
As talk carries on about the Lakers’ roster and a third option behind James and Davis, Kuzma made it clear it’s not something he’s consumed with.
“Honestly, I don’t even think about that, and I don’t even care about it,” Kuzma said. “It’s all about the team game. That’s how we approach it. Obviously, I can score and get my own bucket, but we just try to play the right way. That’s more media people just trying to push it. I’m just being myself and doing me.”
When the Lakers drafted Kuzma, not many were expecting the Utah product to have any immediate impact. After a breakout summer league alongside former Lakers Lonzo Ball, Kuzma became a bright spot on an inconsistent team. He put up 16.1 points per game and dramatically improved as a threat from behind the arc, shooting 36% as a rookie.
Kuzma took a step forward in 2018, scoring 18.7 points per game, good for second on the team behind James. His three-point shooting regressed to the likes of his college days, but those around the team chalked it up to an off-year.
This year with the addition of Davis, Kuzma has struggled to find his role on the team and has seen his three-point percentage dip below 30%.
Kuzma will inevitably find himself with an expanded role following the loss of both Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, and it looks as if he is making the most of the opportunity.
Jared Dudley praises Kuzma’s willingness to adapt
As Kuzma continues to adjust to his role on the Lakers, Jared Dudley has been impressed with his ability to accept change. Dudley noted that while Kuzma is capable of being more of a focal point, he doesn’t need to be.
“He can get a lot better,” Dudley said. “He’s a young player, but he brings a lot to the table right now. He’s in a difficult predicament because a lot of his counterparts at his age, they’re on teams without established superstars and are getting bigger roles. He certainly is capable of that, but his role is going to be different on this team.
“He’s had great acceptance of trying to find ways to contribute to winning basketball and has had a great attitude about it. It’s actually helping to round out his game, so to speak, rather than just focusing on scoring.
“The defense, the rebounding, hustle plays, they’re all things maybe you’re not focused on as much if you’re young and the focal point of an offense. I think in the long run, this is ultimately going to really help his career.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!