During the NBA preseason, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma couldn’t be stopped. The first-year forward led the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game during the preseason on a blistering (and also team-high) 66.9 percent true-shooting percentage.
That run of exhibition play left Lakers Nation practically exploding with excitement over it’s latest late-first-round steal, at least until Kuzma’s actual NBA debut, in which he scored just eight points, six of which came when the game was well out of hand in the fourth quarter.
So did Kuzma finally turn into a pumpkin, or did he simply have one bad game? It turns out neither. The only thing that could stop Kuzma was getting in his own head, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“Little bit less jitters,” Kuzma said. “First game, opening game of my NBA career. I was able to settle down. Made some shots. Made the game simple, really focused on defense, and everything else opened up.”
A few jitters for a rookie during their first-ever NBA game makes sense. Kuzma had already tweeted about how excited he was to make his NBA debut, and perhaps he just got a little too amped or a little too worried about making a positive first impression in a game that actually mattered.
Regardless of what led to his struggles in the first game, Kuzma was able to kickstart the hype train once again in his second contest. Kuzma scored 15 points on nearly-flawless 6-7 shooting as he transformed back into the quick-firing, lethal scorer that had disappeared during the Lakers’ first game.
As Lakers fans are well aware after the last several years, rookies usually go through ups and downs throughout their first NBA season, so the game against the Clippers probably won’t be the last time he struggles. However, if Kuzma can stick to keeping things “simple” like he did against the Suns, it sounds like he’ll be able to avoid more jitter-related issues as he moves forward and gets used to playing in the NBA.