After showing growth during the 2020 NBA Playoffs, Kyle Kuzma has looked like a completely different player in his fourth NBA season.
Kuzma has had to adjust to a new role seemingly every year since he has been with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2020-21 season has been no different as he has been asked to make an impact without scoring as much. Kuzma is only averaging a little less than 12 points a game off the bench for the Lakers but is turning in his best season as a professional because he is playing winning basketball.
The forward has embraced his role as rebounder and defender, often times making a play when the team needs it most. The most impressive part is that he is not allowing his energy to wane even on nights when he is not touching the basketball much.
However, in the Lakers’ recent win against the Indiana Pacers, Kuzma carried the offense in the fourth quarter and showed he can still score when called upon.
“I feel really confident when I get the ball in my hands to make a play, score, pass or whatever,” Kuzma said. “He (LeBron James) assisted on a lot of those.”
Kuzma added that he is just letting the game come to him and is at peace with his role.
“I’m just playing my game, really,” Kuzma said. “I’m taking what is given to me, not trying to force anything. Not trying to be a scorer or trying to put the ball in the hole every possession, but when I’m open I am shooting it. Trying to make a play. Just playing off my teammates the best way I can, so that’s just where I’m at.”
Kuzma has arguably been Los Angeles’ best player outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and is a major reason why the team has been able to stay afloat during the latter’s absence. He has not concerned himself with starting or coming off the bench which has allowed head coach Frank Vogel to mix and match his lineups as he pleases.
The 25-year-old’s mentality and approach this season has been a boon for the purple and gold and should serve them well come playoff time.
Caldwell-Pope on Kuzma’s growth
Kuzma has turned heads in the organization for his willingness to do whatever is needed to win and that has not gone unnoticed from the coaching staff or his teammates. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has been teammates with him the longest, noted that Kuzma has made strides since coming into the league.
“He’s grown a lot. Just being more aggressive on the offensive end, he’s crashing the glass on the defensive end, which that’s different. Giving us second chances, just being in the right position to get those rebounds, Caldwell-Pope said after the win over the Pacers.
“He’s playing with great energy. We need that from him, he’s a scorer on this team and we need that from him.”
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