Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma knows his reputation and is working to change it

Kyle Kuzma, Zaza Pachulia
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, challenging Pistons center Zaza Pachulia for a rebound, wants to show he’s more than just a scorer.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

Kyle Kuzma knows exactly what his reputation is. It’s based on his strength as a scorer. People think he’s a gunner and that he doesn’t pass the ball.

But in the Lakers’ last two games, Kuzma showed that isn’t all he is. Against Detroit, Kuzma had 10 assists, a career high. Against New York on Sunday, he had eight.

With the playoffs out of reach, that’s no coincidence.

“I’m just trying to use these next last 13, 14 games, whatever we have, just try to develop good habits,” Kuzma said. “Season’s pretty much over so that’s the only thing I can really do. Everyone knows I’m a good scorer and I can do that. I’m just trying to complete my game.”


His three highest assist totals, including Feb. 23 against New Orleans when he had seven, have come since the All-Star break. Last season Kumza didn’t have a single game with more than six assists.

Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Kuzma dished out a no-look, alley-oop to JaVale McGee that surprised even him. SLAM Magazine posted the clip of the play on Twitter with the caption: “Didn’t know Kuz could dime like this [to be honest].”

Kuzma replied: “Me either,” with an emoji of laughter.

It was perhaps his second-most impressive assist of this road trip. In Chicago, Kuzma delivered a lofted bounce pass that LeBron James grabbed and threw down a reverse dunk.


“I want to become a good player, and have an overall game,” Kuzma said. “Everybody’s really looking at me to shoot all the time, from a defensive standpoint. I’m now seeing that, seeing my teammates are open. And it’s funner like that.”

Caruso the fighter

Alex Caruso is fighting to be noticed in the NBA during the Lakers’ final stretch, and Sunday he looked like he’d been fighting — literally.

Caruso got so beat up by the Knicks’ physical play that Rajon Rondo joked he’d have to leave Madison Square Garden in an ambulance.

“It always hurts a little more after [a loss] — pain goes away a little when you win — but that’s just kind of basketball,” said Caruso, a second-year guard. “That’s how I play. Today just happened to be a little more physical than most.”

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With the Lakers’ litany of injuries, combined with their fall out of playoff contention, Caruso’s minutes have increased dramatically this month. Inactive for 57 of the Lakers’ first 63 games, he has played more than 24 minutes in five of the last six games and scored in double digits in four of them.

“He [drew] maybe four offensive fouls tonight,” Rondo said Sunday. “Three steals. He does all the little things for us as a team. So when he’s out there, he’s very active on offense and he’s very efficient as well.”


Injury update

The Lakers have five players on their injury report for Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee.

Lance Stephenson (toe sprain), Josh Hart (tendinitis) and Tyson Chandler (neck stiffness) are listed as questionable. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are out, and neither will play again this season.

Hart, who has been playing through severe pain in his right knee, sat out the game in Detroit after playing 28 minutes 20 seconds the night before.



When: 5 p.m., Tuesday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330


Update: The Bucks (52-18) have the best record in the NBA, though they have won only six of their last 10 games. Giannis Antetokounmpo ranks fifth in both points (27.5) and rebounds (12.7) per game.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

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