Unlike most other participants in the Rising Stars Challenge, Kyle Kuzma was not a lottery pick. Selected by the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 27 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, he’s far and away exceeded expectations.
Although Kuzma cooled off from his torrid pace and faded from the Rookie of the Year conversation, he was a shoo-in for the showcase event for first- and second-year players. Kuzma and teammate Brandon Ingram received the loudest applause during player introductions.
It was a reasonable expectation considering the game was played at Staples Center. That reaction made the night all the more memorable for Kuzma.
“It was super cool,” he said of playing in the Rising Stars Challenge. “Especially our fans that came out. It sounded like we had a lot of them today, so it was really cool.
“It’s really a dream come true. Growing up, you always watch All-Star
Weekend, and now we all get to be a part of it. We get to play and hopefully continue to be a part of All-Star Weekend.”
Kuzma scored 20 points on 9-for-18 shooting, adding seven rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes off the bench. He went into the game hoping to win the MVP Award, play 40 minutes, and throw a dunk down on Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid to atone for failing to do so last November.
What Kuzma did manage to accomplish was a scoring flurry that Lakers fans have grown accustomed to. “I turned it up a little bit in the fourth,” he said. “Just to, you know, give the fans a little something.”
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