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Kyle Kuzma says last season was ‘a little bit more fun’ for the Lakers

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Kyle Kuzma compared this season to last year, and says being able to focus on development was nice for him and his Lakers teammates.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

So much of how success is defined really just comes down to expectations. Steve Nash won two MVPs because he was seen as some type of underdog given his natural abilities compared to guys like Shaquille O’Neal, whose incredible production was what was always supposed to happen. It remains ridiculous that Nash would have as many MVPs as Kobe and Shaq combined as a result, but alas.

Kyle Kuzma was asked by Kyle Goon of the OC Register to compare this year to last season, and seems to miss the vibe surrounding a team that won just about as many games as this year’s team will win:

It makes sense, given that last year’s Lakers were young, espoused an easy sort of chemistry and log-jammed their social media accounts with roasts of each other’s dress and tastes. There were lower stakes, and so there was lower pressure.

“I mean, of course, it was a little bit more fun,” Kuzma said. “Last year everybody knew it was development: We were way out of the playoffs a long time ago, unlike this year, where (the playoff race) kind of dwelled and dwelled.”

Last season being about “development” meant that there was very little actually expected of that Lakers team in terms of wins and losses. So long as guys looked noticeably better at the end of the year than they did at the season’s onset was all most people hoped for, and for the most part, they cleared that relatively low bar.

But Kuzma gets it: Winning is serious business. Pressure comes with the territory. And if there’s anything he’s learned during this season, it’s that he doesn’t want the pressure to conquer him.

“It’s just all about learning from this year, and it’s all about always having fun,” he said. “You can’t worry about high-pressure situations or let the stakes of something take the joy and fun away from you, no matter what circumstance, no matter the situation just always having fun.”

So long as LeBron is on the roster, expectations for the Lakers are going to be astronomical. Living up to those expectations is going to be exponentially more difficult than developing at one’s own pace over the course of a season.

And as nice as it might sound that a season’s worth of playing games would all come down to fun and making sure the experience is as light as possible, that’s not really the point here. The Lakers are expected to produce. Kuzma fell well short of what the team needed from him this season. Maybe that was a result of those expectations getting the better of him, but either he’ll have to get better next year, or he’ll be replaced. It’s really that simple.

We’ll see what Kuzma and others do to address how they handle those expectations, but it’s of the utmost importance that everyone figures things out quickly. This season has been a bummer not only when compared to last year, but just in general. It’s felt like one giant kick to the nether region after another.

This was the first Lakers team it felt right to expect anything from. Next year, those expectations will be higher after hopefully a more successful offseason than they had last summer. The longer the Lakers fall short of expectations while LeBron is on the roster, the more each season is going to drag. The sooner everyone involved recognizes this, the higher the likelihood becomes that they figure some way to deal with the pressure Kuzma mentioned.

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