Kyle Kuzma has come to terms with the fact that his offensive opportunities on a Los Angeles Lakers roster with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a bevy of other talented role players are going to be limited.
But instead of dwelling on the smaller numbers in his points column — like he may have in the past — Kuzma is finding ways to impact the game in other ways, which he has done very effectively this season.
“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 on Friday. “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.”
Kyle Kuzma: ‘I Had to Adapt to Survive’
Kuzma has played in all 30 games — starting eight times — and is averaging 25.3 minutes. He’s grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game and 11 points. What doesn’t show up in the box score is some of the dirty work and hustle plays Kuzma provides.
He’s also one of the Lakers’ most reliable shooters from beyond the arc, hitting at 36.2 percent. Kuzma is averaging 4.6 3-pointers per game, which is second on the squad only to LeBron James.
“I’ve been in the league for four years,” Kuzma said in a recent interview with The Athletic, “and I think the No. 1 thing I’ve learned is adapt to survive.”
Kuzma’s hustle and ability to adapt has earned the attention of his veteran teammates.
“I think this season he’s like, ‘I’m just going to go out there and play as hard as I can,’” Markieff Morris said of Kuzma. “‘If I’m the third-leading scorer or if I’m not the third-leading scorer, once I get out there I’m going to try to grab every rebound, try to steal some extra possessions for us.’ That’s what he has been doing. Every team needs guys like that and he’s taken on that role and he’s inspiring to all of us to play harder.”
Kyle Kuzma in Rumors, But Trade Very Unlikely
Kuzma’s name is a common one in Lakers trade rumors, but it’s very unlikely the team will move on from him this season. That’s because the Lakers signed Kuzma to an extension while he was still on his rookie deal.
The team would have to thread a thin needle to make a deal work because as ESPN’s Bobby Marks broke down with the deal was signed, Kuzma’s extension has a “poison pill” restriction.
For trade purposes, the current contract of $3.6 million will count as outgoing salary. For the incoming salary of the acquiring team, the average of the last year of his contract and extension is used — $10.9 million.
So with Kuzma not going anywhere, the best-case situation for the Lakers repeat hopes is that he continues to adapt and thrive in his role.