The return of Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (understandably) went kind of under the radar on Friday when his first game back against the Dallas Mavericks turned into a come-from-behind, overtime thriller that saw a historic game from LeBron James and clutch performances from Danny Green and Anthony Davis after slow starts. By the end of the wild night, even Frank Vogel’s play calling and Andre Iguodala’s tweets got more love than the return of Kuz.
Some of that is because of how awesome the game was, and the other part is that Kuzma didn’t really pop during his first game back, finishing with 9 points on 3-8 shooting from the field in 19 minutes. That’s mostly to be expected from his first competitive basketball in months, and Kuzma admitted after the game that he was just happy to be back out on the floor (via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“It just felt really good to be out there. Like I said prior, I haven’t really played in a while, and it just felt amazing to be out there with my teammates and just having fun again. I felt pretty good. Conditioning is still getting there... but that’s to be expected.”
Kuzma’s conditioning will come with time, and right now he’s still on a minutes restriction as he gets his wind back, so it may take a few games for him to fully break out and show everything he’s been working on this summer.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Kuzma’s first game back in that regard was that despite him playing less-than-average basketball, the Lakers still had enough to complete their comeback without him and play some of their strongest basketball of the year. Why is that a positive? Because it means that when Kuzma eventually does get his wind back — and there is every reason to believe he will — this team will be adding a player that can score 20-plus points on any given night to an offense that is already starting to find its stride, and will be even more dangerous with another shooter on the floor.
So give Kuzma a few games to re-establish himself. After missing all of training camp and only getting to practice with the Lakers a few times before making his debut, he probably just needs a little bit of time and patience to both start playing better and figure out exactly how he fits in on this team.
Once that happens, look out, because while it means Frank Vogel will have even more hard calls to make when putting his rotation together, it will also mean the Lakers can finally put all of their big pieces out on the floor at once and begin solving the puzzle of how they all best fit with tons of games left before the postseason begins. Kuzma returning in November still gives them plenty of time to figure things out, even if he didn’t hit the ground running as well as he’d like to. It seems like he and the team are being patient, and so should everyone else.