In August, Kyle Kuzma had the opportunity to become the first player since Kobe Bryant to represent the Los Angeles Lakers on Team USA. Kuzma was on track to make the final, 12-man FIBA Basketball World Cup roster, but a foot injury cut his time with Team USA short.
Kuzma is no stranger to playing through injury, and likely would have done so to compete for a gold medal in China, but he knew that wouldn’t be an option almost immediately after he suffered the injury.
“It just happened. I woke up one morning and it started hurting,” Kuzma said at media day on Friday. “For me, I knew it was serious right away because we had an off day prior to the morning that I woke up, and it was hurting. Obviously I knew that wasn’t normal, and we got an MRI right away and addressed it right then and there.”
As disappointed as Kuzma was to be sent home, he’s glad he caught the probem before it turned into anything serious. Plus, even with the injury, Kuzma said he had more good than bad to take away from his experience with Team USA.
“USA Basketball just rose my confidence up a lot. A lot a lot. So I think regardless of the injury or not, it was a great thing for me. I learned a lot and got better along the way,” Kuzma said.
With Kuzma’s next opportunity to don the red, white and blue nearly a year away, his focus is getting back on the court and helping the Lakers end their six-season playoff drought. When that will be is still unknown, but general manager Rob Pelinka trusts that the training staff is doing everything they can to get him ready for a deep run this season.
“We hired Judy Seto as our Director of Sports Performance and she’s done an unbelievable job transforming that space,” Pelinka said. “We have a lot of encouragement and hope around the progress Kyle’s making and has made since we found out about his injury.
“He’s working really closely with the staff and the progress he’s made has been terrific,” Pelinka continued. “There’s a lot of optimism and not a whole lot of worry, or concern or fear. I think coach has made it clear in conversations we want to do what’s best for the player, and making sure that we we heal him long term, but we have a lot of hope and there’s a lot of really good signs with the healing that’s taking place.”
Kuzma will be re-evaluated in two weeks, when the Lakers get back from their preseason road trip to China. Until then, Kuzma said he’s finding ways to stay in shape with activities like swimming and bicycling.
“It’s all about rehabbing and getting back to it, progressing well, and I’m thirsty to get back out there with my teammates,” Kuzma said.