After an impressive rookie campaign in which he led the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring, expectations are sky high for Kyle Kuzma heading into his sophomore season. Luckily, this year Kuzma will have some guidance on and off the court with LeBron James in the Lakers’ locker room.
James has a reputation for making his teammates better, and rightfully so, but he also has a reputation for playing well with shoot-first guys like Kyrie Irving, Ray Allen, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love, among others. Kuzma has the potential to become James’ new favorite target on offense and with the work he’s put in this summer, there’s a good chance he will be.
However, Kuzma has noticed that he hasn’t always been the first player in the gym lately. At the first-ever Kye Kuzma Basketball Camp in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, Kuzma said James has been beating him to the UCLA Health Training Center (via MLive):
“I think [adding LeBron is] going to impact a lot. He’s the ultimate professional. He’s one of the first guys in the gym and one of the last ones to leave. Usually, I say I’m the first guy, but he’s beaten me to the gym a couple times already.”
As a head coach, Luke Walton must be thrilled to hear that Kuzma is a little bothered that he’s no longer the only gym rat on the team. Kuzma has all the tools to be a special offensive talent, but the work he puts in is what is going to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
Getting some run in with James should also prove fruitful for Kuzma by the time the regular season rolls around in October. Kuzma is expected to come off the bench this season, but that could all change if he gets James’ endorsement before training camp.
Kuzma said he and James have only spoken a few times, briefly, but he’s excited to play alongside the five-time league MVP this season:
“I was excited. I kind of had a good hunch in my stomach. I thought he was going to come, but it’s good. Any time you can play with one of the greatest players of all-time, it’s going to bode well for you.”
The effect James’ presence and work ethic could have on the young Lakers might end up being huge for their development. Small things like Kuzma seeing James beating him to the gym will show the young players the type of work they have to put in to get “championship habits,” something James has said he wants to instill in the team this season.
Training camp is still roughly six weeks out, so they’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted, but I don’t imagine it will take long for the two to hit if off. Kuzma showed in his rookie season that he actively seeks opportunities to get better and, best of all, he can put the ball in the basket.
Kuzma and James might not be the dynamic duo fans were expecting, but it could be the one we end up getting if Kuzma keeps learning from one of, if not the, best players of all time.
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