Perhaps the biggest, most notable difference between the Los Angeles Lakers new front office regime and the last one is how much more visibly excited president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka get about players.
Whereas Jim Buss simply didn’t talk to the media and Mitch Kupchak’s version of praise was mostly just listing a players stats and physical measurements, Johnson and Pelinka get a little bit more hyped about the guys they’re bringing in.
This was especially on display during their press conference to introduce Lonzo Ball to the local media, but Ball is the type of game-changing talent most executives would get a little over-hyped for.
With all due respect to Kyle Kuzma, players taken with the No. 27 pick in the NBA Draft generally don’t draw the same level of enthusiasm, but Pelinka is quickly showing that he is not your typical buttoned up basketball executive. He is also apparently ready for the Kuzma era:
Rob Pelinka on drafting Kyle Kuzma: “When he was available for us at No. 27 we were doing backflips."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) June 29, 2017
This is way more fun if you take it literally and picture Rob Pelinka looking at the draft, seeing the Lakers were on the clock and Kyle Kuzma was available, and backflipping down the hallway with Johnson as the rest of the front office called in the pick.
Kuzma grew up in Michigan, and while he wouldn’t confirm or deny whether he also did backflips about being a Laker, he is excited:
Should have seen Kyle Kuzma’s expression of glee when Magic said: “And then my homeboy from Flint, Michigan!” to introduce him.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 29, 2017
Kuzma on playing for Magic: “It’s a surreal moment for sure.” https://t.co/FXIZC0CvyL— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) June 29, 2017
Why are the Lakers just as excited to get him? It sounds like Kuzma — who made 30.2 percent of his threes and averaged 1.5 assists per game in college — has been impressing the Lakers with his his range and passing in both predraft workouts and since he’s joined the team:
Rob Pelinka said Kyle Kuzma stood out in scrimmages and pickups in the gym past couple days, making great plays, ‘unbelievable passer.'— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) June 29, 2017
When Kuzma hit "six or seven" 3s in his only day of scouting combine scrimmages, it definitely added to the Lakers' interest, Magic said.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) June 29, 2017
They also like his intangibles:
Pelinka summarized Kuzma and Hart as high character, high energy, skilled, versatile players who can both fit how Luke Walton wants to play.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 29, 2017
The majority of players taken where Kuzma was don’t turn out to have much of a career, but it sounds like the Lakers feel like they’ve found a keeper and they’re doing back flips about it.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.