Kyle Kuzma excelled in the Lakers’ most recent scrimmage, dropping 25 points on 13 shots in 30 minutes off the bench. After the game, he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at his success, chalking it up to simply having the ball in his hands more in the absence of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley.
“It just allows me to be a playmaker and have the ball in my hands, instead of standing in the corner and being a spacer. It just allows me to be myself and play free,” Kuzma told the media on Zoom after the game.
But just because Kuzma wasn’t overly excited doesn’t mean the result wasn’t fascinating and potentially important. The Lakers don’t need Kuzma to play that well every night, as evidenced by them having the best record in the Western Conference all season with him playing mediocre at best. But it would sure help a lot as they get into the playoffs to have him able to serve as a reliable third option on some nights, even if his shooting is a little less flaming hot than it was on Saturday.
Kuzma will get his next chance to show this flash of real, tangible growth is here to stay when the Lakers take on the Washington Wizards on Monday. The Wizards are a borderline G League team who honestly don’t really belong in the bubble — especially given that Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans are sitting out — and don’t merit much of a preview other than for offering a chance to see old friends Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Thomas Bryant.
But with Frank Vogel saying on Friday that there is a possibility that Anthony Davis and LeBron James don’t play in this one (UPDATE: They are out, see for more details below), this might be an interesting scrimmage for the Lakers to see if they can find some workable lineups without those two. Kuzma’s continued success with the new-look bench would be a big part of that, even if we also still need to see him continue to play well around James and Davis, something he hasn’t really been able to do for an extended period of time yet.
The bench will honestly be worth watching either way, though, because that’s where the Lakers have the most question marks as Vogel tries to figure out what his backup backcourt pairing of choice will ultimately be. He took a bit of a look at an Alex Caruso-J.R. Smith duo on Saturday, and given that a Caruso-Dion Waiters combo would seem to philosophically make even more sense as a decent mix of shot creation, ballhandling and defense, look out to see if we get a glimpse of those two together in this one.
The results of this game obviously don’t matter, but that doesn’t mean we (and the Lakers themselves) can’t learn things about this team from them. And hey, they may as well enter the seeding round on Thursday coming off of another win, right?
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers will be missing quite a few guys in this one, and this game will mostly be a look at the young dudes on the roster, as well as the bubble debut for Markieff Morris.
Kuzma has a minor ankle sprain and Dwight is dealing with knee soreness. Frank says AD would have been out anyway and that his eye likely would have been fine to play.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 27, 2020
Danny Green and JaVale will likely only play the first half.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 27, 2020
Dwight is dealing with "a little bit of soreness with his knee, should be fine, (but) he's going to be held out," per Vogel, who added that Kuzma "had a slight ankle sprain, could play if it was a seeding game or playoff game, but we're going to hold him out as well." https://t.co/DVtzn0wyjA— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 27, 2020
As for AD, Vogel says he's "still dealing with some discomfort... He should be fine. Probably would be available to play. I was going to hold him out anyway for this game, but obviously with the eye injury we decided that we'd follow through with that."— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 27, 2020
- We wrote up the latest updates on the Lakers’ life in the bubble.
- The Lakers will open the seeding round against the Clippers on Thursday, but LAC will do so without Lou Williams, who has been placed into quarantine for 10 days after an unauthorized visit to a strip club during his excused absence from the bubble. Yes, really. The NBA is truly back.
The Lakers have tip off against the Wizards at Monday, July 27 at 12:00 p.m. PT. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet, and nationally on NBA TV.