The Los Angeles Lakers have long been a team storied for their postseason glory, but they notably found themselves floundering in recent seasons in their attempts to right the metaphorical ship. Fortunately, the team took a big step forward in doing just that this summer by signing the most franchise altering free-agent available on the market in LeBron James.
However, as crucial of a role James will undoubtedly play this season, it arguably will be the Lakers’ young core who will make or break how close the team gets in meeting their lofty goals.
While it is still to be determined how quickly the first and second year players will assimilate themselves with now teammate James and the pressures of postseason expectations, former Laker and LeBron teammate, Isaiah Thomas, had nothing but praise for his former teammate Kyle Kuzma.
Thomas, who appeared in 17 games with the purple and gold last season after a trade with the Cavaliers, appeared on CBS Sports’ “Tiki and Tierney” radio program to discuss his time with the team before the conversation shifted to Lakers’ popular rookie forward:
“He (Kuzma) is a very underrated guy. The doubt that everybody has for his game is motivation. As someone who works very hard, he’s going to be another special young talent in this league.”
Thomas’ comments are specifically interesting considering the current biggest debate surrounding the Lakers in which the underlying narrative amongst those who cover the league that the team’s young core may not be a good enough supporting cast for James, while the same young players are also consistently overrated by the team’s fanbase.
And while may both be true to an extent, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and it’s worth taking note when a player like Thomas, who has played with both young and established talent, gave Kuzma and his work ethic such a glowing evaluation.
Kuzma was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team after a productive offensive season with the purple and gold during which he averaged 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and held a true shooting percentage of nearly 55 percent.
Although Kuzma endeared himself with the Lakers’ fanbase with his fiery play and Mamba Mentality, there are still those who remain dubious of his long-term potential as both the oldest member of the young core, and the possible one-dimensional nature of his game.
Yet this has not stopped the encouraging words coming out of this summer surrounding Kuzma, as Thomas has not been the only former veteran teammate who has come out to praise Kuzma’s impressive tireless work ethic and drive.
It was only just a few weeks ago when Channing Frye, who himself was also a former LeBron teammate, glowed about the Lakers’ young players on an episode of his “Road Trippin” podcast, but confessed “I’m not going to lie — and I think all of them are good — I have a special place in my heart for Kuz. I think his internal fire comes from a different place than everybody else.”
It is noteworthy of sorts for both Thomas and Frye, who may have felt spurned by the Lakers for not retaining their services, to both publicly praise a member of the young core in such a manner when they had no real obligation to do so.
Their emphasis on Kuzma speaks volumes of his “internal fire,” and the serious manner in which he approaches basketball, both of which James of all people would seem certain to adore as a teammate come playoff time.