It’s a student-teacher relationship that has taken the next step in the bubble, where basketball, and a championship, are the primary focus.
“There’s nothing but basketball for me here,” Kuzma said in a conference call with reporters last week. “I’m not really interested in doing a lot of other things.”
With the start of the Lakers scrimmages nearing, Kuzma showed some love to his bubble “sensei” James on Instagram on Monday night. “Sensei vs. Pupil,” Kuzma wrote. The post got James’ attention and he wrote back: “My guy!! I got you lil bro Getting better and better every day!”
Lakers Coach Frank Vogel Commends Kyle Kuzma’s Growth
James isn’t the only one praising Bubble Kuz. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel also had some key insight on the Lakers’ 24-year-old forward.
“Kuz has been one of our best players since this restart in these practices, he’s had a couple of stretches where he just dominated the floor and it’s been really encouraging to see,” Vogel told reporters Monday. “He had some inconsistency with the beginning of our season because he dealt with 3 different injuries that really prohibited him from getting his legs under him. The shot-making wasn’t always there, but it’s been there at a very high level during this restart and we’re very encouraged and excited about what having a real /healthy training camp could mean for him. Hopefully that leads to an increased role and gives us that boost that we’re looking for.”
(final Vogel quote on Kuzma) “ …and we’re very encouraged and excited about what having a real /healthy training camp could mean for him. Hopefully that leads to an increased role and gives us that boost that we’re looking for."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 20, 2020
Kuzma took some time to adjust to more of a sixth-man role this season after starting more than 100 games through his first two seasons. Kuzma averaged just 12.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds, but showed his ability in spurts when given more minutes to work with in his seven games where he played out of the starting lineup.
He has had eight games over 30 points this season, playing more than 30 minutes in five of those matchups. Kuzma’s best game of the season was a 36-point explosion against Oklahoma City where he played nearly 40 minutes.
Lakers Veteran Jared Dudley: Kyle Kuzma is Our Third Guy
There’s been some debate who the Lakers true third option is. Vogel said the “open man” is the third option, but Lakers veteran Jared Dudley backed Kuzma.
“Our third guy is Kyle Kuzma,” Dudley said, per Ryan Ward of Clutch Points. “Now, has Kyle Kuzma been exactly consistent to the point where you have him as the third guy? I think people have to realize it’s him being behind AD, and Bron being able to move to the four sometimes takes his full minutes, but any time AD has missed a game, I guarantee if you look at those numbers he’s averaging over 20.
“For me, in my eyes, I look at this team, Kyle Kuzma is our third guy. … For us, I look at it as an opportunity for Kyle Kuzma to solidify being the third guy not only for the media but for this team and what I view him as.”
Kyle Kuzma Relishes Chance to Play With LeBron James
Kuzma has previously shared what James is like behind closed doors during an appearance on ESPN’ First Take during the NBA hiatus.
“He’s just a good dude. Like, you see everything that he does and it’s not really fake. He cares about his teammates. He’s always hitting the group chat with things and even now, even when we’re not playing, you know, he’s a real person and you can talk to him anytime about situations.
“Especially for me, just being a young player, kind of idolizing him when I was growing up as one of my favorite players, being able to play with him and really see what he does on a daily basis and really just pick things from him. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that’s how I kind of look at it outside of just him being my friend and one of the greatest basketball players, you know?”