Kyle Kuzma had a pretty rough offseason. He not only missed Los Angeles Lakers training camp, but also all of the preseason, as well as a few regular season games due to the stress reaction in his left foot. It’s hard to jump right into the rotation after barely being on the court with the team, and it had shown.
Before the Lakers’ game against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers had been outscored at a rate that would equal 10.2 points per 100 possessions in the 105 minutes Kyle Kuzma played on the court (his on-court net rating). In the 140 minutes Kuzma was on the bench, the Lakers had a net rating of +19.0. So are the Lakers worse with Kuzma? Absolutely not. It just takes a while for a player to get back into the rhythm of things.
“I’ve been finding my rhythm all season,” Kuzma said on Spectrum SportsNet after the Lakers beat the Suns. “Obviously I haven’t had a lot of time, but I feel like every single game, if you watch, I’ve been getting better and better with my rhythm and timing. And it kind of clicked a little bit. I know I can shoot, and that’s what it is.”
Kuzma finished the game with 23 points, shooting 9-of-16 from the field, and had a net rating of +19.5. In the game before versus the Toronto Raptors, Kuzma missed two big threes in the final minutes of the game. This time, Kuzma made sure the results were different, hitting two big threes to put the game out of reach. Let’s break that down, and what else he did well:
Kuzma is playing with a very different team than he did last season. Most of his teammates are veterans, compared to last season where many of them were in his age range. They don’t need to be taught as much, where as Kuzma still needs to learn. Therefore, his mistakes are kind of magnified on this team.
It’s hard to preach patience on a team who’s goals are towards a championship, but it’s important to be patient with Kuzma because of what he can be for this team. It may take a while for him to still get back on track from not playing for so long, but if last night is an indicator of what the future may hold, he can also be exactly the version of himself the Lakers need him to be, if they can just give him some time to permanently find his footing.