The shots have not been there for Kyle Kuzma of late, a situation the Los Angeles Lakers forward described as “not ideal.”
Kuzma, who was once thought of as the Lakers’ third option, has taken just six shots over LA’s last two games, seeing just one of those go in.
“Obviously it’s not ideal for me to go a game and shoot the game two or three times,” Kuzma said after practice on Wednesday. “Obviously. Just keeping it 100. I’ve just got to find ways. I’m constantly moving on the court and just trusting that the ball and that energy of moving is going to find me, whether that’s cutting to the middle of the rim, running the floor every time; and, in certain situations, being aggressive and making the right read.
“There have been a bunch of plays this series where I get in the paint, thinking to score, but there’s a teammate open and I’m hitting them. That’s just the right basketball play and I’m fine with it … those plays add up. I’ve just got to keep trusting that the ball is going to find me and hopefully it does in the right situations.”
Kyle Kuzma Has Settled Into Role With Lakers
While a younger Kuzma might have complained, he has found a way to be an asset for the defending champs without scoring the ball, especially on the defensive end. He’s one of the team’s better defenders and takes pride in slowing down his opponents. As Kuzma puts it, he’s playing “championship-style basketball.”
“My role on this team is not necessarily scoring the ball,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, if you look at it from an attempt standpoint, the ball hasn’t necessarily found me and that’s okay. I just have trust that it will eventually but my thing is obviously contributing on that defensive end, which I have been, and doing those little things to help us get wins — playing championship-style basketball — and I’m okay with that.”
Kuzma averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds this season but had some big performances as the Lakers dealt with the injury bug. He’s found the key to be an asset.
“I’ve been in the league for four years,” Kuzma said during in an interview with The Athletic, “and I think the No. 1 thing I’ve learned is adapt to survive.”
Frank Vogel Pleased With Kyle Kuzma
The playoffs are a different beast for role players, who can sometimes be the difference in tight games, for better or for worse. The Lakers role players were miserable in Game 2 against the Suns, but a late strong push from LeBron James and Anthony Davia helped the defending champs even the series. The Lakers finished the contest with just 13 bench points.
Kuzma hears it from fans when he’s not putting up numbers, with some even creating a petition last season for him not to get a championship ring. But the most important thing is that his coach Frank Vogel is pleased with him and the intangibles he brings to the table in his role.
“There is a mindset to get him involved some, but we don’t want him forcing and we, as a coaching staff, don’t want to force-feed that type of action. There’s going to some games where he’s heavily-involved and some guys where he’s not, but if he defends and rebounds, he’s helping us win,” Vogel told reporters. “He had a great performance the other night without a bunch of points and just doing all of those intangible things that we talked about.”
Kuzma will have another chance to get more involved in Game 3 on Thursday as the Lakers host the Suns looking to gain an edge in the series.