Kyle Kuzma laughed when asked what Lakers teammate Isaiah Thomas says to him on the court.
“He yells at me a lot,” Kuzma said, good-naturedly. “He’s just a veteran. A guy you can count on. He’s been through the wars. Been through the playoffs. He knows what it takes to win or whatnot. He’s just a great resource to have out there. He helps all the young guys out for sure.”
Considering the Lakers’ youth, it’s actually a quality that coach Luke Walton appreciates. It speaks to Thomas’ understanding of the game, something much of the Lakers roster is still working through. After Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Walton was eager to discuss Thomas’ impact on the team so far.
“Everything that we’re yelling at the players from the bench about,” Walton said, “he’s actually on the court telling them the same things as far as getting them to the right spots.”
As Thomas familiarizes himself with the Lakers roster, he’s been a boon to other players too. He and Julius Randle, who was the only Laker to have a better game than Thomas on Sunday night, developed strong chemistry on screen-and-roll plays throughout the game.
“At the end of the day their defense has to pick and choose what they want to take away,” Thomas said. “And if there was one guy on me I’m going to try to take it and make a play. If there’s two guys on me, obviously somebody else is open and he’s a hell of a basketball player so he makes it easier for myself.”
Randle had a similar perspective — that the attention Thomas draws helps him.
“We just both play to our strengths,” Randle said. “… In general I just love playing with him.”
Even with a young group, Thomas’ style can cause emotions to flare sometimes during games. Against the Denver Nuggets, cameras caught Kuzma and Thomas yelling at each other after a defensive miscue.
“I told him to switch and he didn’t switch,” Kuzma said. “Then he got mad at me for some odd reason. That’s what it was.”
But to Kuzma, Thomas’ experience carries weight. And he doesn’t mind going at it with a teammate in the heat of the moment.
“I think we both bristle about it for sure,” Kuzma said. “I’m a competitive person. He’s really competitive. We both want to win. It’s always a good and a bad thing to get animated like that because … it keeps you on your heels more. It just helps you come together more.”
“He didn’t yell at me yesterday, we were all good,” Kuzma said. “Just more excited because he was barking at Cleveland’s bench the whole time.”
Wear stays on
The Lakers plan to bring back Travis Wear for a second 10-day contract. Wear’s first 10-day deal expired Monday. After two such stints, the Lakers will have to either let him go or sign him to a deal through at least the end of the season.
Wear has played in five games and contributed on offense and defense. He averages 4.6 points in 10.4 minutes a game.
Jamal Murray awaits
In the Lakers’ last two games at Denver, Jamal Murray irritated them in one way or another. On Dec. 3 he dribbled the ball around Lonzo Ball as time expired, after a game filled with less obvious taunts. Last Friday, Murray engaged in trash talk that Walton found disrespectful.
After Friday’s game, both Ball and Kuzma indicated that they looked forward to seeing Murray again Tuesday.
On Monday Walton insisted he would not talk to his team about Murray in advance of the game.
“No, we’re going to talk about what we need to do to win a game,” Walton said. “That’s it.”
LAKERS VS DENVER NUGGETS
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. PDT.
On air: TV – Spectrum Sportsnet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio – 710, 1330
Update: The Nuggets (37-30) still have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. They are coming off a decisive 130-104 win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.