If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to reach their full ceiling, it’s going to be in part largely because Kyle Kuzma grew into the type of player the organization hopes he can be. Last night, as the Lakers eclipsed the Phoenix Suns late, it was Kuzma that shined brightest, and his superstar teammates noticed.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis pulled Kuzma aside before his postgame interview to hype him up, and their praise continued to praise him after the game.
James said he always believed in the third-year wing (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I mean it was only a matter of time. And it came at the right time, playing against a tough team... It was great to have the Kuz that we knew he was capable of (being).”
James then expanded on the role he and the team envision for Kuzma. As difficult as it might be to be the third option on a good team (cut to Kevin Love and Chris Bosh nodding glumly), it seems that this is what Kuzma was ready to prepare himself for:
“He is (the third option). We know that. Everyone knows that it starts with me and AD, but Kuz is a huge piece of this puzzle... We’re not always looking for the 20 points or whatever, but just him looking to attack in the flow of the offense.”
Davis also praised Kuzma for his play down the stretch, and looked forward to what that might mean for the team:
“He made some big-time plays tonight... The more he’s able to play like that, the harder it’s going to be for us to be beat.”
Vogel built on Davis’ point and specified what it was that Kuzma brought to the table as well as his scoring:
“The passing. He was playing inside-out basketball, and everybody else was. So he was the recipient of a lot of extra passes. He’s a confident offensive player and is going to be a major part of our season... He can play with and without the ball now.”
James finished with a little more praise, but also a message moving forward:
”He’s been trying to get in a groove, get in a rhythm the last couple of games, get his legs back under him and he did it tonight. He came up huge for us, made some big shots... We were just so happy for him... We told him just keep going.”
The fact remains that of all the players currently in the rotation, only Kuzma is young enough to continue to grow and improve. It’s why the Lakers had to be patient with him even while he struggled his first few games back. When asked if Kuzma has shown any frustration during that time, James said he noticed some, but understood where it came from:
“He was definitely a little frustrated, but he definitely showed today why he stuck with it.”
And in the process, Kuzma rewarded the Lakers for sticking with him.