Kyle Kuzma is set to miss his fourth game in a row tonight with the left ankle sprain that has been troubling him even before he started missing time, and it’s far from the only malady that’s disrupted his third season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kuzma missed all of training camp and much of the start of the season with a stress reaction in his foot, and then dealt with an eye contusion and illness in addition to this sprain, right as he’s trying to find his way on a new team while playing a new role he’s never filled in the NBA. He’s struggled, but in ways that should be expected amidst all that context.
Perhaps that’s why the Lakers are giving him so much time to rest now. Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel has previously said the team will be patient with Kuzma’s ankle and allow him to get back closer to 100%, and Kuzma appears to agree with that approach based on what he told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times recently:
“It’s all about just being patient,” Kuzma said. “It’s all about being patient. We’re a 20-3 team and that’s all it’s really about right now — trying to get wins and when I have opportunities or when the team needs me when the team is down, I have an opportunity to come in and hit some big shots. That’s just kind of my job to do. Other than that it’s just kind of get in where I fit in and just help the team out in any way.”
And make no mistake: The Lakers aren’t giving up on Kuzma. Vogel told Ganguli that while he understands why Kuzma isn’t happy with the level he has played at, Vogel is still very optimistic about what Kuzma can bring to the Lakers when he gets healthy:
“The injuries have been a frustration point for him, understandably,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He has high expectations for what he’s gonna mean to our team. To not be at your best, it can be frustrating. We’re just hopeful to get him fully healthy and contributing at the level that we know he’s capable of.”
When and if Kuzma gets healthy and adjusts to his role, he gives the Lakers scoring dynamism they don’t get from anyone on their roster other than LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Now, as we’ve seen in the Lakers being as good as they’ve been without Kuzma, those two guys as the driving force of a team can still result in a lot of wins.
Still, if the Lakers are going to hit their ceiling, they’re going to need to get something out of Kuzma. And based on their actions and words, it seems like they’re committed to getting him healthy and setting him up for success on that front when he makes his next return to the lineup. Don’t expect them — or him — to rush it.