Lakers teammates show how much faith they have in Kyle Kuzma
The trust the Lakers have had in Kyle Kuzma has never wavered, especially from his more decorated teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
If Kuzma was searching for more proof that his two All-Star brothers and his coaching staff had faith in the third-year forward, he found it Monday night when the Lakers’ game against the Denver Nuggets hung in the balance.
They all believed in Kuzma enough to draw up the final play for him and for James and Davis to be willing partners as the drama unfolded on the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.
With the score tied and 4.5 seconds left, coach Frank Vogel drew up a play for Kuzma to take the game-winning shot. James inbounded the ball to Davis, who waited until the defense pulled toward a cutting James. Kuzma curled behind the three-point line, accepted a pass from Davis and drilled a three-pointer with four-tenths of a second left to give the Lakers a 124-121 lead that stood for the win.
Kyle Kuzma’s heroics saved the day for the Lakers on Monday against the Denver Nuggets. Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 124-121 win.
When the game was over and the Lakers had ended a three-game losing streak, James was asked if Kuzma had done even more to earn the team’s confidence.
“Nah, no,” James said, “he’s earned it.”
James and Kuzma have been teammates for two years and the two of them have developed a kinship.
“Kuz is a confident young kid, a confident young man and I’m happy to have him on our side,” James said on a video call after Monday night’s win. “You have that confidence and he goes out and just plays. He’s worked a lot. Like I said, he’s still young, it’s crazy, he’s only in his third year. But he’s gotten better. His game is starting to slow down. He’s starting to see the game at a pace which works not only for himself but works for our team. Confident player and you’ve gotta have confidence to take a shot like that and make it.”
In seven games in the bubble — two of them starts — Kuzma has averaged 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 28.4 minutes a game. He is shooting 46.3% from the field and 44.4% from the three-point line. His plus-minus rating is plus-1.9.
His 25 points in a starting role against the Nuggets was his best offering in the bubble.
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“He’s always been confident, like you said,” Davis said via video conference late Monday night. “He’s not afraid to take or make big shots, as you can see tonight. He wants to guard the best player on the floor. He wants to take the challenges. He’s been great for us all year. He’s getting into his rhythm on both ends of the floor. Like I said, he’s going to be huge for us, especially in the playoffs.”
Over the course of 61 games this season, Kuzma is third on the team in scoring (12.8 points), ranking him behind Davis (26.1) and James (25.5). Kuzma is shooting 43.6% from the field and 31.6% from three-point range.
And along the way, his confidence has grown, and so has the trust of his teammates in him.
“Every time that we ran that play in practice, I kind of hit the shot,” Kuzma said Monday night. “So they kind of just went to me. Obviously, the play, nine out of 10 times, is going to LeBron. But you know, [Vogel] called my number, and it’s all about trust.”
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