Never shy about approaching the legends of the game, Kyle Kuzma made a phone call as soon as he heard LeBron James chose the Lakers.
He called James.
“It was very short; he was headed out of the country,” Kuzma said of the conversation. “It’s a bunch of excitement. Getting one of the greatest players of all time. Not too many players can say that.”
Kuzma was in Las Vegas on Tuesday to watch the Lakers’ summer league team win another game, beating the New York Knicks 109-92. He sat a few seats away from Magic Johnson, who was attending his first summer league game and making his first public appearance since James signed. Johnson declined to address reporters, but Kuzma and Lakers coach Luke Walton finally were able to speak publicly about their team’s big free agency score.
“I was sitting in my backyard on a nice Sunday afternoon and my phone started blowing up,” Walton said. “I didn’t know if it was fake news or real news, but I guess it was real. I was obviously really, really excited about it. I kind of had a gut feeling that this was where he was going to come.”
Walton said he and James haven’t spoken but have exchanged several text messages. They don’t know yet when they will meet; Walton wants to give James time to recover from the long season he finished less than a month ago.
Last Sunday, a week after news of James’ arrival broke, Walton shared a meal with James’ previous coach, Tyronn Lue, at the Aria hotel and casino. Walton and associate head coach Brian Shaw met with the fellow former Laker to learn more about the team’s new star.
“It wasn’t as much advice as it was kind of breaking down his relationship with LeBron and he had nothing but great things to say,” Walton said of Lue. “Honestly he said ‘You’re going to love coaching him,’ he’s a winner, he works hard, he’s one of the smartest players he’s ever coached.”
Walton thinks James will mesh well with his young teammates.
“He picks up every single person he plays with and he elevates their game,” Walton said. “I know who our young players are and I know what they’re about. They’re all excited.”
Count Kuzma among those. The second-year forward once reached out to Kobe Bryant to arrange a dinner. He can’t wait to learn what James can teach him.
“I’m gonna learn a lot,” Kuzma said. “I’m going to have a chance to be front and center with him every single day whether at practice or on the road I’m going to have a chance to pick his brain. He knows everything about how to, whether it’s in business or being a great basketball player.”
Stephenson amused by new teammate
Social media erupted with amusement at the news that the Lakers agreed to a deal with Lance Stephenson, who had been an antagonist to James throughout their careers, and once famously taunted James by blowing in his ear.
Stephenson was amused, too.
“It was actually funny that I am actually on the same team,” Stephenson said. “I am very excited to see what that brings and just playing with him, one of the best players to play the game, is going to be amazing. I can’t wait to get on board. I mean ... we are going to have a fun season.”
Stephenson signed his one-year contract Tuesday. His agent spoke with James’ agent before Stephenson agreed to the deal. Despite their past clashes, James approved of Stephenson’s arrival. That meant a lot to Stephenson.
“I feel like just him reaching out and showing that he liked what I bring to the game is amazing,” Stephenson said. “I just can’t wait to be on the floor with him, actually get on the court with him. I’m just happy to be on a team that actually wants to win.”
Lakers resume play Thursday
The Lakers’ summer league play will resume Thursday when they will face the winner of a game between the Clippers and the Washington Wizards.
Because the Lakers won their first three games, they have a first-round bye in the playoffs.