For Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, chatter about his role on the team and how he fits into the Lakers’ scoring hierarchy might be a consistent topic of discussion for those outside of the team but you will not find him losing sleep over it.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis average 52.4 points per game combined and take 39.9 percent of the team’s total shots. Kuzma is third on the team in scoring, at 12.5 points per game, and is looked upon as the team’s No. 3 option. But he has struggled with his shooting percentages (43.4% from the field and 29.7% from the 3-point line), leaving some to wonder whether he’s up to the task.
Most of those pushing that theme, though, are reporter-types, according to Kuzma.
“That’s more media people trying to push it,” Kuzma said in an interview with reporters this week, “but I’m just being me.”
Kuzma is the only Laker besides James and Davis averaging double-digit shots (10.9 per game). He does not, though, accept the notion that he is under pressure to fill some No. 3 role. Teammate Jared Dudley did address the topic this week, but he was asked by reporters about it.
“I’m honestly, I don’t even think about that and I don’t even care about it,” Kuzma said. “It’s all about this team game and that’s how we approach it. Obviously, I can score and get my own bucket but we’re just trying to play the right way.”
Vogel on Kuzma: ‘He Can Get a Lot Better’
Kuzma has struggled this season after two impressive years in which he averaged 16.1 points as a rookie and 18.7 points as a second-year player. He started 105 of his 147 games in those two years, shooting 45.3% from the field and 33.5% from the 3-point line.
But an injury to start the season and a new role off the bench (he has started only seven of 54 games) seemed to leave him out of sorts. He shot just 19.8% from the 3-point line in 24 games from mid-January through the start of the league’s coronavirus hiatus.
He was also the subject of trade rumors in that stretch, though the Lakers ultimately kept him. He will now be the subject of contract speculation, as he is eligible for an extension this offseason, something the Lakers will be reluctant to do given their desire to protect cap space going forward.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Kuzma has plenty of room to improve but insisted this season has been good for him. Vogel said in an interview with reporters:
Obviously, he can get a lot better, he’s a young player, but he brings a lot to the table right now. And he’s in a difficult predicament, because a lot of his counterparts at his age that are on teams without established superstars are getting bigger roles and he certainly is capable of that but his role is going to be different on this team. And he’s had great acceptance of trying to find ways to contribute to winning basketball and has had a great attitude about it. It’s actually helped him to round out his game so to speak, rather than just focusing on scoring.
Lakers Hit the Floor for First Scrimmage
Thursday will be the start of a new chapter for Kuzma and the Lakers. The last time the team played a game was back on March 10, when they suffered a setback loss on a Tuesday night to the Nets after a thrilling weekend that saw them topple their top Western Conference rival, the Clippers, as well as their top overall rival, the Bucks.
Now, 105 days later, the Lakers will be back on the floor in an official NBA capacity, going against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. But it will be only a 40-minute scrimmage as the team ramps up for the restart of the NBA season in Orlando. In other words, don’t expect much.
“Just to get our legs under ourselves and be able to compete,” Kuzma said. “Haven’t played basketball in four months so probably expect a lot of sloppiness, a lot of tired people. I wouldn’t look at the scrimmage as Game 1 or anything. I don’t think guys will be in their best shape until the playoffs.”