It won’t take long for the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers to reignite their rivalry as they play in one of the first games in the NBA reboot. One thing was clear in the previous matchups between the two teams and it’s that neither team wants to lose to the other. They’ve long been considered the two best teams in the Western Conference and it wouldn’t surprise anybody if they matched up at some point in the playoffs.
Part of the reason the rivalry is so fierce is that Kawhi Leonard scorned the Lakers to join the Clippers. Instead of the purple and gold forming the best starting lineup in NBA history, they now have to fiercely compete with a team they share a building with. Regardless of the rivalry, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma still has a lot of respect for the reigning Finals MVP.
“I just look at Kawhi Leonard as an example,” Kuzma told the media Tuesday. “He was a Spur for three, four, five years or whatever it was, waiting his turn behind Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and then did his thing. I just take the pressure on myself and try to get better every day, stay focused on what I can control, and [know] my time is coming.”
Kuzma hasn’t exactly thrived in his role since he started coming off the bench. However, it’s a good sign that he’s using Leonard as an example. Though he is one of the best players in the NBA now, Leonard didn’t make an All-Star game until his fourth season in the league. Perhaps Kuzma will be ready to break out next season.
Kuzma Is Feeling Very Healthy
Kuzma got banged up at a couple of points during the season and it forced him to miss a handful of games. That said, he believes that he’s feeling healthy heading into the NBA reboot.
“I feel unbelievable health-wise,” Kuzma said. “I feel great. Throughout the season had some injuries, playing through injuries, but the break allowed me to get physically 100%. Mentally, I’ve been reading, meditating and painting a lot, just preparing my mind for the playoffs. I feel great.”
The Lakers have been able to stay relatively healthy all season but some of their top players have gotten knicked up at points. The added rest could end up being a blessing in disguise for Los Angeles.
Follow the Heavy on Lakers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Kuzma Is Ready for a Championship Run
Despite the extended time off, the Lakers have stayed locked in on their goal of winning a championship. Kuzma has yet to play in a playoffs game and he is pumped about the prospects of playing for a title.
“It means a lot, and that’s why I’m taking it so serious,” Kuzma said. “Like I said, through this whole quarantine I’ve just been preparing my mind and my body, just getting ready for this opportunity. Not many players have opportunities to win rings, to have a chance in my third year, has a chance to really make moves in my career moving forward, and that’s important.
“Guys can go across this league and average 20, 25, and just never win. I don’t want that. I want a legacy, to do something that as a kid I always wanted to do.”
This could be Kuzma’s best shot ever at winning a championship. The NBA is a cutthroat business so there’s no guarantee he’ll be on the Lakers next year. He’s a key player for the team so a strong showing from him could go a long way in getting the team to the Finals.