Kyle Kuzma is locked in for the second half of the Los Angeles Lakers season and is feeling refreshed following some time off.
Kuzma has struggled in the past around this time of year with his name floating around in trade rumors. However, it appears the 25-year-old is feeling good both physically and mentally as the Lakers gear up for a title run.
“Nothing like having a fresh mental,” Kuzma wrote on Twitter.
Kuzma followed that up with an Instagram post, talking about his “mood” for the second half of the year.
In short, it appears the fourth-year forward is not nervous about his immediate future in purple and gold. He’s averaging 11.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and is shooting 36.5% from beyond the arc this season.
Kyle Kuzma Unlikely to be Dealt at Trade Deadline
Kuzma might be feeling better knowing it’s fairly unlikely that he’ll be on a new team after the trade deadline thanks to the extension he signed prior to the season.
That’s due to the “poison pill” provision in his contract, which ESPN’s Bobby Marks explained:
For players still on their rookie deals before an extension kicks in, the NBA counts their fourth-year salary as outgoing money and the average of the extension amount and last year of their rookie contract as incoming money. One example: Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma would count as $3.5 million in outgoing salary for the Lakers but $10.6 million for an acquiring team.
Kuzma might not be in play, but the Lakers are expected to make a few moves as they shore up the roster for a title run. Names that the Lakers have been reportedly been monitoring for a post-buyout deal or trade include PJ Tucker, Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins. It was reported on Wednesday that they had signed center Damian Jones to another 10-day deal.
Kyle Kuzma Embracing Role This Season With Lakers
Kuzma is embracing his role off the bench this season, a change from last year where he admitted it was tough to transition to a sixth-man type role. He’s moved away from the expectation of being the Lakers’ third “best” player and is instead trying to excel in his role.
“It’s big for this team. I’m trying to be a star in my role,” Kuzma told Spectrum SportsNet in February. “Just trying to help this team win. Coming off the bench or starting, I’m just out there playing basketball — playing free with a sense of joy, trying to get wins.”
With Anthony Davis and LeBron James carrying the scoring load on most nights, plus the addition of talented role players Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell, there are fewer shots available for Kuzma on a nigh-to-night basis. However, he’s found ways to impact the game through defense and rebounding, which his head coach Frank Vogel appreciates.
“There is no doubt that he’s taken another step,” Vogel said earlier this season “(He’s shown) the mindset of buying into the role with this team, this Anthony and LeBron team, of being a dirty work guy and a guy that can carry the load offensively at times, but really someone that can impact the game in more ways than scoring.”
Kuzma would usually draw the start with Davis out, but continued to come off the bench with the team’s star forward out. Kuzma did not sweat it.
“I just got to control what I can control,” Kuzma told reporters when asked about continuing to come 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.”
The Lakers restart their season on Friday against the Pacers.