Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee have a history, both having grown up in Flint, Mich.
But there was one thing Kuzma didn’t know about McGee.
“He’s actually a student of the game,” Kuzma said. “You see the Shaqtin’ A Fool, you see everything like that, but he actually knows basketball and he’s always watching film. You talk to him on the court and you can just tell how he talks and how he screens you that he knows what he’s doing and he’s really smart.”
McGee, 31, is entering his 11th season after winning two championships with the Golden State Warriors. He will be the Lakers’ starting center this season and is expected to see more playing time than in most of his previous seasons in the NBA.
More now than in the last two years, the Lakers’ young players are surrounded by smart veterans who are willing mentors. Kuzma does rely on LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, the most obvious mentors. But as he’s tried his hand at some small-ball center, he’s come to appreciate McGee’s experience.
“You just don’t see that,” Kuzma said of fans missing that about McGee’s personality. “You just see what you want to see and what fans want to see but you know he’s very smart on the basketball IQ side.”
Rondo wants bi-coastal rings
Rondo is embarking on his 13th NBA season, a career that has spanned six teams, including 8 1/2 with Boston, where he won a championship in 2008.
What still keeps him motivated?
“I need another ring,” Rondo said. “It’s simple. I want to be the first to win for the two most historic franchises that’s ever put a basketball to use. So, I got one in Boston and I’d love to get one with this organization.”
Though Rondo wouldn’t be the first player to win championships with the Lakers and Celtics, he would be the first player to win championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics. Clyde Lovellette, who played for the Minneapolis Lakers and Boston Celtics, is the only player to have won championships with both franchises.
Rondo, 33, is on a one-year deal with the Lakers, but that could turn into more depending on how both sides feel after this season. It’s not common this fall — and hasn’t been for several falls — for the Lakers to talk openly about championships.
Lakers coach Luke Walton doesn’t mind that Rondo is thinking that way.
“Rondo should want to win a ring,” Walton said. “We all want to win a ring. But for me, it’s always important to realize what it takes to win a ring. And that’s putting focus on the day-to-day work, putting focus on the details, not thinking about the actual ring, other than when you’re fighting through the fatigue of ‘why am I doing this?’ halfway through the season.”
LeBron the West Coast NBA fan
This is the first time in James’ career that he has played for a team on the West Coast, which allows him to enjoy a luxury not available to those in the Eastern time zone.
The NBA season will officially kick off during daylight, and he won’t have to stay up after midnight to catch the late game.
“Very excited,” James said. “The thing about being on the West Coast you get going early, you don’t have to wait ’til late at night. I’ll be watching.”
Lakers exercise options
The Lakers exercised their team options on the contracts of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kuzma for the 2019-20 season. Ball, Kuzma and Hart will be entering their third seasons and Ingram will be entering his fourth.
The move is procedural. Teams rarely decline player options on rookie contracts. Ball’s contract is worth $8.7 million for the 2019-20 season, Ingram’s $7.26 million, Kuzma’s$1.97 miillion and Hart’s $1.93 million.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli