For the first time in nearly four weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers will have their full complement of players when they face the Clippers. Monday night marks the return of Larry Nance Jr., which is expected to bump Kyle Kuzma out of the starting lineup.
“He was fine with it,” Walton said of Kuzma’s reaction to the forthcoming change. “He said, ‘I don’t care. I just want to play basketball. Whenever you need me, I’ll be on the court ready to go.'”
Upon being inserted into the lineup, Kuzma’s play garnered national attention that led to many pegging him as the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft. In 11 games as a starter, he’s averaging 18.1 points and 35.6 minutes.
“It just gave me a lot more confidence to play against those guys,” Kuzma said of starting. “I’ve just got to keep that confidence.”
“I proved I can play against first-unit guys, second-unit guys, it’s the same thing. I learned more patience with the first group, playing against starters. I got confidence playing against those guys. It’s a long season, and I know I can get a lot better.”
While much is often made over a starting lineup, in some instances it carries little significance. Such is the case with the Lakers and their dilemma with Kuzma and Nance. Walton further noted it’s a “good” problem for the team to have, because of the players’ unselfishness.
“I don’t think there will be much of an adjustment (for Kuzma). He’s really good at when he’s in a game, at just playing basketball,” Walton explained. “Whether that’s starting or coming off the bench, or playing late in the game. I think he’ll be fine either way.”
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