With the Suns leading 2-0 over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals and on the verge of their franchise’s first title, it’s looking more possible than ever that the Lakers may have lost to the eventual 2021 champions. That would cap a somewhat shocking run to the title from Phoenix, but while their success may come as a surprise to some, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma says he saw it coming.
During a chat with Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report to promote his new reality TV series, Kuzma said that he saw a bit of what made the 2020 Lakers special in the Suns when he looked across the court and saw how they were gelling as they took control of the first round:
“I saw them as a potential Finals team just off their chemistry,” Kuzma said. “Last year with us, we had unbelievable chemistry and everybody kind of jelled and knew their role and had fun doing it, had fun playing with each other. I noticed playing them, that same type of feel. Everybody was communicating, talking, having fun, smiling with each other. Usually, when you have a team connected like that, you win big.”
The Lakers, however one slices up the reasons for it, seemed to be missing a bit of that semi-intangible magic this season. Whether it was the overhauled roster, lack of time to gel, or a combination of those two realities and other factors, this team just never got on the same page in the special way the Suns (and 2020 Lakers) were able to, where every single piece fit snugly into place and the whole roster played like pieces of a collective whole rather than individuals.
For the Lakers, one can look at this with two minds. On one hand, making too many changes based on the outcome of this season could be dangerous. After all, if Anthony Davis doesn’t hurt his groin, Los Angeles very well may have maintained control of that series and handled their business in the other rounds. Winning can help build chemistry like the Suns have, and too often we all view this stuff with 20/20 hindsight, and misattribute what caused success to something that comes as a result of it.
On the other hand, however, the Lakers finding a way to build back up the same level of chemistry and cohesion they had during their title run certainly couldn’t hurt. Whether that comes through roster changeover, or just the team getting more time together by virtue of the country opening back up and LeBron James being able to hold his traditional, players-only preseason mini-camp, or even just injuries and health and safety protocols not limiting the team’s time together to such a great degree, the roster getting the chance to all gel a bit more can’t be a bad thing as the Lakers look to chase another title.
How much all of the above was a factor in the Suns’ success isn’t truly knowable, but it does feel notable that Kuzma mentioned it as reminiscent of what the Lakers did the year before, and indicative of what the team itself attributes its own success to. If that’s reflective of how the front office and other players on the team view things, then it could help us predict the main ways they’ll attack this offseason, looking to build chemistry and cohesion in any way they can.