Los Angeles Lakers third-year forward Kyle Kuzma has had a number of ups and downs during the early stages of his career. After a breakout rookie season, Kuzma struggled mightily to find his identity on a Lakers team that underwent significant changes.
During that time, his 3-point percentages fell significantly, while his defense and decision-making always looked a step behind. This all changed in the middle of the 2019-20 season, when Kuzma learned how to positively impact a game when his jumper isn’t falling.
It hasn’t been consistent in every game, but he has shown flashes of the type of player he can be in the NBA. Kuzma spoke about how thankful he is to be a part of this Finals run, especially given that he could have been sent to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade.
“Yeah, I mean, I could have been at home enjoying myself right now,” Kuzma said. “That’s the biggest thing for us, to be here obviously, like you said, big trades, having A.D. come here, and decide to put me in the mix to try to win a championship and be a part of a championship team.
“I’m just very thankful for it. It’s a great opportunity in my young career and I’m just excited.”
He also gained some perspective over getting to the Finals in his third season when many players never get that chance. “Like you said, just the journey that I’ve taken to get to this point has been pretty crazy, and it’s just a surreal feeling to say that I’m in the NBA finals with the opportunity to win the NBA Championship. So, man, just incredibly thankful.
“Obviously when you come to the league you want to win, have success, and sometimes it never comes in this league. You see so many guys that have never even been to the Conference Finals. So putting that in perspective, having an opportunity to be in the NBA finals and in my third year, it’s an honor.”
Kuzma has undoubtedly shown growth as a player and person since his rookie season, and he’ll have the ultimate chance to prove that against the Miami Heat. Winning a ring in his third season would go a long way towards helping him build his confidence and identity as a player.
Kuzma leaning on advice from Tyson Chandler
In addition to the help from his veteran teammates like Jared Dudley, Kuzma also took heed in advice given to him by former Laker Tyson Chandler.
“I’ll always remember my second year in the league and Tyson Chandler being in the locker room and saying, ‘I’ve played in the league 18 years and I’ve only been to the Finals once.’ That’s always stuck with me. Just live in the moment,” Kuzma recalled.
“You never know when you’ll get back to this plateau, so just take it all in, embrace it and attack it head on, because you never know if you’ll get back.”
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