From the moment that Kyle Kuzma was drafted by the Lakers with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, he fully bought into the Los Angeles lifestyle. While that was seen as charming when Kuzma was averaging 16.1 points per game on 36.6% shooting from 3-point range as a rookie, his love for the limelight has been a point of criticism for over the past two seasons.
Whether or not that’s a valid criticism is a separate issue, but Kuzma and the Lakers are currently 2,500 miles away from Los Angeles at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. While they’re there, Kuzma wants to focus on the task at hand, which is doing what he can to help his team win a championship.
“There’s nothing but basketball for me here,” Kuzma said in a conference call with reporters on Monday. “I’m not really interested in doing a lot of other things.”
Kuzma has always been good about saying the right things; it’s the doing that he’s struggled with this season.
In 54 appearances for the Lakers this season, Kuzma has averaged 12.5 points on 43.2% shooting from the field, including 29.7% shooting from 3-point range. He’s also posting the worst box plus-minus of his career (-3.5) despite the fact that this is the most successful team he’s been on.
Kuzma’s struggles can be partially attributed to the fact that he’s spent less time with the ball in his hands because he’s played extended minutes with Rajon Rondo in the second unit. With Rondo sidelined for at least the next six weeks, and Bradley out for the remainder of the season, there’s a potential opportunity for Kuzma to reestablish himself as a go-to option on offense — both as a scorer and a playmaker — and he’s ready for the challenge.
“I mean I can do that, but that’s a decision for the coaches,” Kuzma said. “If they allow me to do that, I can do it, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”
It’s been a rough season for Kuzma, but there’s a very reasonable path to success for him to be an impactful player for the Lakers in the postseason. If he can do that, no one will care about what he did in the first 50-odd games of the regular season.