Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was really good in the first game USA Basketball played against Australia, dropping 12 points off of the bench on 4-5 shooting from 3-point range.
He didn’t get the chance to see if he could repeat the feat on Friday night, however, as he and the team opted for him to sit out with what Team USA deemed “a sore left ankle” right before the game:
Kuzma not playing gives Lakers fans a lot less of a reason to watch the friendly, as it takes the chance to see Kuzma compete for one of the 12 spots on Team USA’s final roster off the table.
That noted, this is the right approach for Kuzma and the team to take. Playing for USA Basketball is a great way for Kuzma to spend the summer developing if he’s healthy, but the Lakers will need him intact for what they surely hope will be a long playoff run this year. There is no sense in jeopardizing that by suiting up for Team USA.
What will be worth monitoring is how this affects Kuzma’s approach to the rest of the tournament. He’s talked about how and why it’s so important to him to get the chance to represent his country in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but in a tournament in which players have used just about every excuse in the book to drop out and prepare for a wide-open NBA season, it just doesn’t make sense for Kuzma to push things if this isn’t an extremely minor injury.
Should he avoid getting cut and opt to remain with the team instead of seeking further rest back home, Kuzma will get his next chance to play for Team USA when they wrap up exhibition play with a game against Canada at 2:30 a.m. PT on Monday. That contest can be watched on NBA TV.