When Kyle Kuzma first started in the NBA, he was known as a guy who could score but not defend. Through his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he put up impressive scoring numbers while mostly being a defensive liability. However, once Frank Vogel took over as head coach, Kuzma has elevated his defensive game.
He’s averaging a career-low 9.9 points a game, but he’s helping affect the game on defense. He was an important part of a key defensive play against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. When the game ended, Kuzma decided to go on Twitter and send a literal “middle finger” to the people who believe he doesn’t play defense.
Kuzma has every right to call out his doubters but he quickly deleted the tweet. Perhaps he thought the middle finger emoji was a little too aggressive. Regardless, the Lakers have the top-rated defense in the NBA and Kuzma deserves credit for helping that happen.
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Kuzma Talks Difficulty of Playing During Pandemic
The Lakers have just ended a road trip that lasted seven games. It’s typical in the NBA to have long road trips during the season but the pandemic has made things very different. When a team heads to somewhere like Atlanta, they can’t exactly go out for dinner or anything. Kuzma believes that it’s tough to build a strong bond with the team when they have to be locked in their rooms when they’re not playing or prepping for a game.
“Obviously it still is a mental toll. Everybody is locked away in their rooms and it’s still a pandemic out here,” Kuzma said, via Lakers Daily. “That’s not an excuse to lose at all, but just every day, human life, yeah, for sure, it’s always going to be a mental toll.”
Kuzma went into a bit more detail.
“There’s not too much bonding,” Kuzma said. “Obviously the NBA has very, very strict regulations to keep everyone safe. Obviously, we have our little contact-tracing bells, and just being safe and being precautious. You don’t want to be around too many people. You see a team like Washington have to postpone games, six, seven, eight people in the organization (getting infected), that would hurt you. Especially if you have championship aspirations.”
The bubble situation last season was slightly different. There were still things players and coaches could go do as long as they were in the bubble. Now, teams just go to cities and are supposed to stay put in their hotels. It’s definitely a very unique season.
Lakers Have Done Excellent Job of Following Rules
The season is still young but there have been a number of teams that have had to postpone games. The Lakers haven’t been one of them. Alex Caruso had a small COVID-19 scare earlier in the season but that didn’t lead to any game delays.
Los Angeles, California has some of the strictest COVID-19 rules in the country right now, so the Lakers are well prepared for the unique circumstances this season has presented. They just have to hope that their opponents throughout the season are also being smart.