Los Angeles Lakers fans have had high expectations for Kyle Kuzma ever since the 27th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft starred in his debut season three years ago.
And many, including Jared Dudley, hoped the Utah product would become L.A.’s third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The forecast did not entirely materialize, but Kuzma has been a valuable role player for the Lakers this season, particularly during the NBA restart. The 25-year-old forward averaged 15.4 points, shooting a much improved 44.4% from deep, and impressed on the defensive end over the eight seeding games in the Orlando bubble.
His moment of brilliance against the Denver Nuggets, when he beat the buzzer with a dagger 3-pointer to claim the win, even prompted him to say he would shoot the ball even if he was facing Jesus.
However, Kuzma’s role diminished once the playoffs started. He is averaging 10.6 points per game this postseason with his form fluctuating from game to game — which evidently frustrated some Lakers fans.
A petition was launched ahead of Game 3 against the Miami Heat, calling on the Los Angeles organization not to award Kuzma a championship ring if it wins the NBA Finals. But the Lakers forward was unbothered by the criticism.
“I honestly don’t care. You either love or hate someone,” Kuzma said. “It doesn’t matter. I dyed my hair blonde this year. I don’t give a [expletive]. I don’t care. I mean, Twitter is for jokes. I laugh at jokes, too. It really doesn’t affect me at all.”
Whether by coincidence or added motivation, Kuzma seemed particularly determined in the Game 3 loss to Miami, scoring 19 points — sinking four of his eight attempted 3-pointers — and recording arguably his best playoff performance to date.
Kuzma disappointed by Lakers ‘letting foot off the gas’ in Game 3
Kuzma was one of L.A.’s few bright lights on Sunday night, putting in a solid shift off the bench while the Lakers starters were struggling.
But it did not change the fact he left the floor disappointed, noting the team failed to match Miami’s intensity in an important moment of the series. “That was our game and we let our foot off the gas,” Kuzma said.
“We had a lot of mistakes offensively with the turnovers, and defensively as well. We’re disappointed.”
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