Over the next few weeks, third-year forward Kyle Kuzma will have the opportunity to become the first player since Kobe Bryant to represent the Los Angeles Lakers on Team USA. However, in order to do that, he needs to solidify himself as one of the 12-best players in a 15-man group vying for a spot on head coach Gregg Popovich’s FIBA Basketball World Cup roster.
Luckily, it sounds like Kuzma knows just how he’s going to do that.
After USA Basketball’s first practice at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo on Tuesday, Kuzma broke down what he thinks he needs to do make the final roster, and it sounds like his head is in the right place (via Lakers.com):
“Defense and rebounding [are the] two biggest things. We’ve got a deep team. When you play with a team—an All-Star team like this with stars—everyone has to have a certain type of role and that’s one role I’ve been showing really well at since I’ve been here.”
Above all else, though, Kuzma said he wants to show he can play “the right way” on a team with some of the most talented players in the country:
“Like I said before, playing with a team of stars, it’s actually fun—it’s super fun playing the right way. You want to make that extra pass, you want cheer on your team and you want to play defense at a certain type of level just because of the USA standard, so it’s a blast for me, for sure.
Kuzma’s hoping he can carry some of those good habits into the regular season and make the jump Lakers fans are hoping he’ll make playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis:
“Super. Obviously, it’s different rules and what not but it’s an opportunity to work on my game. Like I said: Defense and rebounding, that’s one thing that this team kind of needs and it’s one of the roles that I can provide and that’s going to help me during my season.
“You know, they always say that playing USA Basketball, guys have career years and they improve the following season, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Kuzma will get the chance to show everything he’s learned when Team USA take on Spain in an exhibition game at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Friday.