Kuzma started 105 games over his first two seasons with the Lakers, but took on more of a sixth man role this season with the addition of superstar Anthony Davis to the roster. He’s started just six games this season.
Kuzma was expected to be the third option behind Davis and LeBron James, but it wasn’t always easy to adjust to his new role and he also dealt with early-season injuries.
But on Thursday night with LeBron James sidelined due to groin soreness, Kuzma took on a bigger workload than normal, proving that he can still be a high-level contributor when given the minutes. The 24-year-old forward netted 18 points to go with three rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes of work.
“Any time I get asked to do a bigger role, I tend to try to be myself,” Kuzma said, via Spectrum SportsNet. “Obviously, this year is all about sacrifice. Just trying to fit in and trying to win. Just trying to do what’s best for the team and that’s what I’m trying to do — play my role. But when guys are out, I’m asked to kind of do anything I can do and try to do it.”
Kyle Kuzma Embracing Learning Curve in New Role
Kuzma was the subject of trade rumors around the deadline, but the Lakers showed a degree of trust in the young forward that he can be a key piece of their championship picture. He’s been open about his learning curve going from a young, struggling team, to the top squad in the West.
“My learning curve has been pretty accelerated in a sense,” Kuzma told Bill Oram of The Athletic about the Lakers’ progress. “But for the better. … We’re playing like championship basketball right now. We’re not playing with a bunch of young guys that are still trying to find their way. I mean, I’m still trying to find my way in this league, but I’m learning how to play championship ball.
“It’s not about points. It’s about just trying to win. Obviously everybody’s got to sacrifice and that’s just for the betterment of the team. When I have scoring opportunities, I take them, attack them and if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. It’s just the way with how our team is constructed and I just got to find a way, and find ways to contribute to winning basketball.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was happy to see Kuzma emerge against the Warriors with his best game of the month.
“He just got more minutes tonight. We’ve been calling the same type of actions for him of late to try to get him more in scoring positions, and continue to get him comfortable in his role, and he was terrific tonight.”
Markieff Morris Addition Makes Life Easier for Kuzma
While the Lakers didn’t make any moves at the deadline, they added Markieff Morris to the mix via the buyout market. Morris has been impressed with Kuzma so far.
“He’s gonna be special. Kuz is young right now, he’s still figuring everything out,” Morris said prior to the Lakers win. Third year, he’s playing like an eight or ninth year player. He’s got some stuff to figure out… but I’m excited for his future for sure.”
Morris’ addition allows Kuzma to move to small forward more often, where he’s comfortable.
“I feel like I’m a wing,” Kuzma said, via Clutch Points. “I’m the most comfortable offensively and defensively being a wing. When I have the ball in my hands, I’m able to play off of pick-and-rolls, play make, chase guys off screens and what not. I feel like that’s where I’m most comfortable.”