Saturday was Lonzo Ball’s night, having gotten his first ever triple double, but it was also a special night for Ball’s best friend on the team, Kyle Kuzma.
The game in Milwaukee was the first of his regular season games that Kuzma’s mom, Karri Kuzma, attended. She drove from near Flint where she lives in the condo Kyle rents for her so she doesn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck like she did when she raised him.
That Kuzma and Ball are such good friends is well documented. But their two younger brothers, Andre and LaMelo, have also become close, which is what Karri attributes to Andre’s Instagram follower count skyrocketing to 23,400. The families are also getting to know each other.
Andre actually facilitated a meeting between Karri and Lonzo’s parents.
“He was very humble when he met me,” Karri said of Lonzo and LaMelo’s boisterous father, LaVar. “My youngest son, he’s a very social person so I probably wouldn’t have went up to him. He said let’s go meet him. Andre went up to him and said, ‘Hey I’m Kyle’s little brother.’ And he said, ‘This is my mom.’ He came over and he gave me a hug and just introduced himself and Tina. They’re pretty down to earth. He’s a dad, he’s a proud dad. Whatever he’s doing, he’s got a master plan.”
Others might be, but Karri isn’t surprised at what her son has been doing lately. She knew all along he’d be a first-round draft pick and succeed in the NBA. She’d just like to see the two best friends get a little more playing time together.
“They are close; they have good chemistry,” she said. “They haven’t really had a lot of chances to play together.”
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 98-90 loss in Milwaukee:
1.) That this road trip wasn’t going to be kind to the Lakers was obvious with a glance at the schedule. They faced three teams with a lot of talent in Boston, Washington and Milwaukee. There was some good fortune for the Lakers in that they caught the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers led for most of the first quarter and part of the second, but then the Bucks took over and led for most of the second half.
2.) The Lakers have gotten in the habit of having to wait months or years for their young draft picks to develop. But they got Kuzma, somehow overlooked out of high school and out of college, and he is paying dividends immediately. Kuzma had another strong night, especially in the second half, when he scored 15 of his team high 21 points. He also made 6-of-10 shots in the second half after 2-of-7 in the first.
3.) Ball and Kuzma both played big minutes — much bigger than they normally play. Kuzma played 41:40 and Ball played 38:48. Here’s what Lakers Coach Luke Walton said when asked why: “I felt like tonight with the length that team has it was, Kuzma has great length. Lonzo has great length. Not having Larry hurt, obviously. We got behind so normally when we’re behind that Julius lineup at the five has worked best for us so far this season so we left Brook out a little bit longer. We’re always going to look for lineups that are playing hard and playing the right way.”
4.) In the five games leading up to this road trip, the Lakers had done a pretty good job of avoiding turnovers. They were in the teens most games and committed only 11 turnovers in Portland. That’s changed during this trip. The Lakers committed a season-high 23 turnovers against the Bucks and they scored 17 points off those turnovers. Thirteen of Milwaukee’s points off turnovers came in the second half. “One of the characteristics we want to have is that we value the ball and we don’t turn it over very often, especially on the road,” Walton said. “Unfortunately this road trip has not been good for that. That makes it really hard to win when you turn over that much and obviously throw the free throws on top. You still have your chance, but you’ve got to play a pretty perfect game besides that.”
5.) Speaking of the free throws, those also hurt the Lakers Saturday night. The Lakers missed 15 free throws and shot only 59.5%.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli