Shortly after signing LeBron James, a report indicated Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton and his staff began to mull over variations of a small-ball unit that was inspired by the Golden State Warriors’ vaunted ‘death lineup.’
Early predictions were based on James playing center, but team also appears to be exploring using Kyle Kuzma at the position. Kuzma spent the offseason working to improve his perimeter skills, but he’s also taken to serving as a center in a small Lakers lineup.
“I just like to work on my game so if my number is called in any situation, I’m able to operate,” he said after practice during Lakers training camp. “I’ve been playing center a little bit. It’s been going well, I’m picking it up. Like I’ve said, I’ve never really played the five before.
“I think it would be good for us, having a small-ball unit getting out running and gunning. It’s a work in progress but I think it will be great for us as time comes.”
Kuzma’s only other experience with playing center came in high school, which he dismissed as being of any value. “That doesn’t really count,” he said.
Where Kuzma figures to be most challenged when potentially playing center is on the defensive end of the court. He sought out Walton to watch film as effort to further understand what responsibilities would fall on his shoulders.
“You’ve got to be the anchor of the defense,” Kuzma said he learned. “That five position calls out pick and rolls, screens. That five is usually around the rim, so you see everything. Watching that film has really helped in that area when I’m trying to be that anchor. I’m learning every single day. I’m just glad that I can definitely see it coming.”
What should aid the young forward in expanding his versatility is a thicker frame. He’s among the several young Lakers who have been praised for progress not only made on the court but the weight room as well.
“When I’m hitting guys on offense in the post, when I’m guarding guys and beating them to a spot, or taking blows,” answered Kuzma when asked what difference he’s noticed. “I really see it translate from the weight room to there.”