In unfortunate news, Kyle Kuzma – who sat out of last night’s loss to Australia with a minor ankle injury – is officially the final cut for USA Basketball heading into the FIBA World Cup. Kuzma was coming off his best international performance going 4-5 from deep while showcasing some improved defensive decision-making.
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Kyle Kuzma Final USA Basketball Roster Cut After Ankle Injury
While the specific details surrounding Kuzma’s ankle or how it actually got hurt are somewhat cloudy, it seems the injury is serious enough to give head coach Gregg Popovich reason to leave him off the roster entirely. With the final roster now set, USA Basketball looks to be considerably thinner in the forward department in the absence of Kuzma. Harrison Barnes and Jayson Tatum should both see expanded roles in Kuzma’s absence.
Kuzma had been showing some impressive signs of improvement prior to the injury. Aside from simply having a strong game in the first showdown with the Boomers, Kuzma had repeatedly shown off his new three-point shot and had received high praise from his teammates regarding his growth on the defensive end. Hopefully, Kuzma’s ankle winds up just being a sore ankle as the Lakers can ill afford to lose another crucial member of their frontcourt.
While it seems likely a precautionary measure in shutting him down and leaving him off the team, Lakers fans can at least breath a sigh of relief knowing that Kuzma has some time to get healthy before camp and won’t be running the risk of suffering a more major injury.
What Comes Next for Kyle Kuzma & USA Basketball?
For Kuzma, he gets to head home and focus on getting his ankle right for the upcoming season. Expected to play a major role as a sixth man off the bench, the Lakers need Kuzma functioning at full strength from day one. Especially being one of the few returning contributors, Kuzma’s on-court presence should go a long ways towards helping to provide some on-court continuity and ensure a bit smoother transition to the Lakers’ new system under Vogel.
For USA Basketball, they limp into the FIBA World Cup surprisingly vulnerable. While still the most talented roster in the tournament, USA is far from the juggernaut they usually are and look to be a poor matchup against teams like Serbia and Spain (who have VERY good NBA big men). While Kuzma wouldn’t have been much help against the Jokic’s and Gasol’s of the tournament, his presence at power forward helps stretch the floor on the offensive end and will be sorely missed.
As for a Kuzma-USA Basketball reunion down the line, don’t count it out. Kuzma seemed well on his way to making this year’s roster before his injury and still extremely young, should find himself having plenty of opportunities to make future USA Basketball rosters. While this one certainly stings for Kuzma, the future should be extremely bright for the Lakers’ forward.