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Kyle Kuzma says all the Lakers have to step up now that LeBron James is on the team

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LeBron James joining the Lakers lit a fire under Kyle Kuzma to improve even more, and he says it should do the same for his teammates.

Milwaukee Bucks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers are as high as they’ve been among fans and the media in years thanks to LeBron James joining the team in free agency, and Kyle Kuzma says that the team’s internal expectations — and motivation to meet them — have also went up a few levels.

Kuzma has never had a problem pushing himself — he wouldn’t have so thoroughly outperformed his draft spot, or believe he could be MVP one day if he did — but he told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that James’ signing lit an extra fire under him, and that his teammates will have to raise their games as well:

MT: You’ve been working right here in this building for basically the entire offseason. Did you pick up any extra motivation after free agency concluded, especially with LeBron’s decision?

Kuzma: It has, because it means we’re going to win now. Everybody, not only me, has to step it up. For me, I just want to be a great player, and that’s what it’s going to take. I’ve always been a self-motivated guy for basketball.

This isn’t a shocking stance from Kuzma, even if he has already said he doesn’t think extra pressure will come from playing with James. While those ideas might seem somewhat contradictory, I don’t think they are. Kuzma might not feel extra pressure from playing with James, and is more saying that the Lakers’ growth is going to be driven by necessity in order to stay on the floor for a winning team, and not necessarily from external and intangible “pressure” from the media or the expectations of fans.

There is no more time for developmental minutes. The Lakers will hope their young roster develops, sure, and do their best to put them in a place to do so, but players aren’t going to get as much time to play through mistakes this year. A winning culture is going to hold everyone on the team accountable, and players are going to have to produce to earn their spot.

Luke Walton will have plenty of options at basically every position, but especially at the three and four spots, where Kuzma is likely to spend most of his time. If he’s not playing well, those minutes at the three or four are going to go to LeBron, Brandon Ingram and maybe even Michael Beasley, Josh Hart and Moe Wagner. Kuzma will have to keep rolling like he did as a rookie — and even show growth beyond that player — in order to stay on the floor.

That’s it’s own type of pressure, and Kuzma is right about this: Everyone on the Lakers will have to step up, or they’re going to get sat down.

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.