On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Toronto Raptors — the team that assistant coach Phil Handy worked for and won an NBA championship with last season. In the five seasons before that, Handy was the Director of Player Development for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who he won a championship with in 2016.
This year with Lakers, Handy will have the opportunity to be in six consecutive NBA Finals, but in order to get there, he has to help the team develop their young talent as much as possible, and that starts with Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma, 24, is only two years younger than Anthony Davis, but he still has a lot of room to grow going into this third NBA season.
Kuzma got some one-on-one time with Handy while he was rehabbing from a stress reaction in his left ankle that he suffered while competing for a spot on USA Basketball’s FIBA Basketball World Cup roster in August, and he recently told reporters what they worked on (via Lakers.com):
“Good stuff. A lot of ball-handling stuff. Getting into my pull-up, isolation work. Footwork on the post. A lot of good things that suit my game well.”
Handy and Kyrie Irving had individual workouts to practice similar things while Handy was with the Cavaliers. According to Marc J. Spears of ESPN, Handy and Irving would regularly show up to games half an hour early to get their workout in. Handy has been doing pregame and practice work with Kuzma since he was hired by the Lakers.
Here is a small bit of what Kuz is working on pregame with Lakers assistant Phil Handy pic.twitter.com/WRXaxaTQEg— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 11, 2019
Here is some video of what Kyle Kuzma is doing pregame. He may not be playing, but he is still working hard with assistant coach Phil Handy pic.twitter.com/0fnBdxKWax— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 17, 2019
Obviously Kuzma and Irving are two entirely different players on several levels, but Handy’s experience with Irving speaks to how qualified he is to be working with Kuzma and the Lakers. It also lends some credibility to Handy’s endorsement of Kuzma.
Ultimately, though, it’s up to Kuzma to soak up what he can from Handy and put it to good use. Given how much Handy seems to admire Kuzma’s work ethic, that shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll have a better idea of how much Kuzma picked up a few weeks into the season when Kuzma has his legs back under him.