In recent games the Los Angeles Lakers have seen rookie Kyle Kuzma take over in the fourth quarter. In each of the team’s last two victories, Kuzma has been huge in the final 12 minutes, scoring and making a number of plays to allow the Lakers to come out with a victory.
For anyone that’s been watching Kuzma since the beginning of the season, he has never lacked any confidence in making shots. As such, Kuzma would seem ideal as a potential closer among the team’s young core.
And Lakers head coach Luke Walton definitely believes the rookie has the right mentality. “He’s got that mentality that he wants to win,” he said.
“Kuz is one of those guys that you can see it in his face. Even on the road trip when we lost the first two, he came into that Memphis game and it was all business. And he really did a job in that fourth quarter.
“He’s got that alpha male personality and he truly believes in what his skill set is. When it comes time to win, he has all the confidence in the world in himself, so I think that’s why he’s able to make big plays down the stretch of games.”
But even with his continued development, which includes shining at small forward, Walton is hesitant to put that closer title on Kuzma.
He instead prefers for things to play out in each individual game. “We expect him to perform well in the fourth, but I don’t want to put that role on anyone. With the group we have right now, I like it coming more organically with the game,” Walton explained.
“What Zo did in San Antonio, at the end of that game, if Brandon is having a game, whoever it is, we don’t have that Kobe Bryant closer right now. I don’t want to put that role on one person and start running everything through him at the end of the game. I want it to come out of the flow of how we’re playing.”
There have certainly been moments for a few different players in clutch situations. As Walton pointed out, Lonzo Ball took over against the Spurs, and who can forget Brandon Ingram’s game-winner in Philadelphia.
Between Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, and Julius Randle the Lakers have different people who can do different things in the clutch so it probably is best to see how things play out on a nightly basis.
Walton is right in that there is no Kobe-like closer on this team, but when it comes to mindset, and scoring repertoire, Kuzma could very well be the closest.
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