With how much time has passed since the NBA suspended its season, it almost feels as though the Los Angeles Lakers got a second offseason, and it’s possible that no one on the team needed that time to recover — both physically and mentally — more than Kyle Kuzma.
While obviously the case can be made for a 35-year-old LeBron James, he’s said himself that he would have preferred to keep playing because he was turning a corner physically, and the stats reflected that. Kuzma, on the other hand, was sort of just treading water, and there was no indication that things were going to get better for him as the season progressed, at least offensively.
Now, with a few months away from the court, it appears Kuzma is ready to be that third star the Lakers need. After practice on Monday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said that Kuzma has been one of the team’s best players since practices restarted.
“He’s had a couple of stretches where he’s dominated the floor and it’s been really encouraging to see,” Vogel told reporters on his daily Zoom call. “He had some inconsistency with the beginning of our season because he dealt with three different injuries that really prohibited him from getting his legs under him.
“The shot-making wasn’t always there, but it’s been there at a very high level during this restart, and we’re very encouraged and excited about what having a real training camp, or a healthy training camp could mean for him,” Vogel continued. “Hopefully that leads to an increased role and gives us that boost that we’re looking for.”
Vogel also noted that Kuzma went 9-10 from the field during the Lakers’ scrimmage on Monday.
Had heard that two Lakers who have stood out and impressed in Orlando practices so far are Kuzma and Caruso and that Kuzma is shooting lights out. https://t.co/jbiwPrSAHb— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) July 20, 2020
Vogel’s comments are similar to the comments we heard about Kuzma last summer, before he got injured at Team USA’s training camp. Kuzma’s played 54 games since then, but he hasn’t looked as spry as he did in the exhibition games he played with Team USA, so it will be interesting to see just how different he looks in that regard when games restart.
It will also be worth monitoring how much of Kuzma’s progress has to do with the fact that he’s not sharing the floor with a ball-dominant point guard in Rajon Rondo. It’s been said before, but Kuzma is at his best when he’s creating shots for himself, and he theoretically has more chances to do that with Rondo sidelined.
Whatever’s led to Kuzma’s newfound success will hopefully be sustainable when games to start to matter later this month, and into the postseason. The Lakers have dominated without a third star, but they would benefit from having a third player they can rely on for consistent offense. Hopefully, Kuzma can be that player moving forward.