Kyle Kuzma has been one of the Los Angeles Lakers most improved players this season, due in part to an improved mindset from the 25-year-old forward and a willingness to do whatever the team needs to win.
Lakers star Anthony Davis is out until after the All-Star break due to injury, which would usually allow Kuzma to slide into the starting five. However, Kuzma has come off the bench the last three games and has seen his playing time dwindle. After logging three consecutive games of 34-plus minutes, Kuzma has played just over 22 minutes per contest in the LA’s last three outings.
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Lakers!
He recorded just 20 minutes in the Lakers blowout victory against the Warriors on Sunday, although the lopsided score might have played a role in that as well.
While a similar situation might have shaken his confidence in the past, Kuzma isn’t sweating it now — especially with the Lakers winning.
“I just got to control what I can control,” Kuzma told reporters when asked about coming off the bench. “I can’t control if I start or come off the bench. I just control what I can control. That’s where I’m at right now.”
Kyle Kuzma Finding Ways to Produce in Limited Time
While his minutes are down, Kuzma’s production has remained strong. He scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Warriors — the third time in four games he finished with double-digit rebounds.
Kuzma has openly struggled with his bench role in the past and his “starter Kuz” persona has become legendary with fans of the purple and gold. But a more mature Kuzma has settled in and has learned from Davis and LeBron James — two of the best in the game.
“I don’t really get the ball as much, so I’ve got to figure out ways to impact things, figure out ways to be on the court for this team,” Kuzma told reporters recently. “Obviously I’m a small/power forward and those two positions are the two best players in the league, so it’s going to be very scarce out there for me from an offensive standpoint. So for me, I’ve got to figure out ways just to do other things and just not be a zombie on the court like I was a lot of last year standing around. I’m just trying to go out there and compete and see where the chips are.”
Markieff Morris has taken over the starting role with Kuzma shifting to the bench, which has allowed head coach Frank Vogel more flexibility with the lineup.
“A couple games ago when we first did it, we wanted to introduce a 10th man into the rotation,” Vogel told reporters, per Lakers Nation. “That night it was Jared Dudley. To get Jared Dudley in there, we didn’t like playing him and ‘Kieff together, so it was as simple as putting ‘Kieff in the starting lineup so we could introduce a 10th man into the rotation and lighten the load on some of the guys that have played heavy minutes.
“I like what ‘Kieff brings to the table,” Vogel added. “When Anthony went down, our first look was to play with Kuz in there and ‘Bron sort of defending the 4-man. We didn’t get off to a good start, we lost three in a row, and four out of five, so wanted to look at this stretch of games to see ‘Kieff in the starting lineup.”
Kyle Kuzma Lands on Injury Report
Kuzma was a new addition to the Lakers injury report on Monday with a right heel contusion. He’s probable for Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns. James (left ankle sprain) and veteran Jared Dudley (neck sprain) are also probable. Newcomer Damian Jones is questionable with a back injury.
Damian Jones, Jared Dudley and Kyle Kuzma all sustained injuries last game pic.twitter.com/pmFrQ2jJRM
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 2, 2021
Anthony Davis remains out, but the Lakers are optimistic about his recovery from a calf strain and Achilles injury. Davis got up some shots before the Lakers played the Warriors and head coach Frank Vogel confirmed the team is optimistic about the four-week timeline that was initially established for the superstar.
Anthony Davis getting in some light, standstill shooting pregame. The Lakers hope to have him back in the lineup in about two weeks. pic.twitter.com/ZOjRhvw6wP
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 1, 2021
“It’s just light shooting. We’re still on track for the four-week plan,” Vogel said.
The Lakers are listed as a slight 2-point favorite against the Suns, per Odds Shark.