The Los Angeles Lakers once again fell victim to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, dropping back-to-back preseason games to their Western Conference foe. Although the game was sloppy and unforgiving, there were a few key takeaways for head coach Luke Walton. Rookie Josh Hart debuted and showed a strong defensive presence, while fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma once again had a dazzling performance.
The 22-year-old dropped 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 3PT FGs) while adding two rebounds and three steals. The impressive scoring outburst came with a sense of confidence, as he showed a veteran presence, along with a combination of agility and explosiveness. The night was capped off by an impressive baseline reverse jam, as well as almost finishing the dunk of the preseason on a driving attempt that he was fouled on.
The front office, coaching staff, and fans have been pleased with his effort and contributions thus far, making a case for a possible starting spot or heavy minutes in the rotation. Lakers superfan and NFL All-Pro cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman even took to Twitter to support Kuzma’s case, while also taking a shot at Brandon Ingram:
Looks to me that Kyle Kuzma is what they were hoping Brandon Ingram was…..????????????
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 5, 2017
Sherman’s tweet was in the moment but sparked discussion for the Lakers realm of Twitter. After three preseason games, Kuzma holds firm as the leading scorer in the preseason, even with his team at 0-3. Kuzma also contributed 23 points and two assists in the first clash against the Nuggets, while totaling 19 points, five rebounds, and a steal in the opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Walton also came to the support of the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, stating he is one of the most confident rookies he has ever seen. Part of that can be attributed to Kuzma’s three-year tenure at the University of Utah, where his game, body, and role matured as his collegiate career went on.
Ingram sat out Wednesday’s game with a head contusion, as more of a precaution. Ingram has developed into a leader of sorts for this team, while also facing big expectations from the franchise. While he has been limited in preseason thus far, Ingram remains the clear pillar for the franchise, with his teammates expecting a breakout season for the second-year player.