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Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma believes in California’s proposed plan for police reform

The Lakers' Kyle Kuzma drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray on Aug. 10 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has wasted little time in becoming more politically active, first tweeting before talking with the media Monday about a bill he wants to see passed regarding police reform.

Kuzma wants to see Senate Bill 731 pass in California. It would require all police officers in the state to be certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, and it could rescind the certification of officers fired for misconduct or those who resign before an investigation.

“While we’re demanding change, right now in CA Dems are REFUSING to pass modest police reform that would keep abusive officers out of the state and end qualified immunity!” Kuzma tweeted Monday morning. “@AssemblyDems are you going to make real change or just pretend like you hear us?!? #PassSB731.”

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Kuzma explained his support of the bill during his videoconference with reporters after practice.

“It basically prohibits police from having the ability from breaking the law and not getting into trouble,” he said. “Obviously, it’s hard to get passed right now, but we’re just trying to push it through and make real change. That’s one thing just to continue being an activist on, commenting on racism, but we got to get these bills passed. That’s the most important thing.”

State Sen. Steven Bradford, who introduced the bill, told The Times he was excited Kuzma had gotten involved.

“That’s solid what Kuzma did,” said Bradford, who represents District 35. “It shows that this is critically important right now, this time in America, with what’s happening with Black and brown people interacting with law enforcement. … I’m glad the NBA players and other African American athletes are realizing in this day and age with social media the power of not only their image and athletic ability, but the power they represent in this country. People listen to guys like Kuzma and follow them and I’m glad they are using their platform.”

The SB 731 is among many that legislators have until Monday night to vote on, and Gov. Gavin Newsom must sign those sent to him by the end of September to become law.

Kuzma was asked what kind of dialogue the players have in the bubble with NBA security people who are current or former police officers.

LeBron James’ purpose in Orlando, Fla., has been twofold — to keep the country mindful of racial inequalities and to win a championship for the Lakers.

Kuzma said those officers working for the NBA are part of their “brotherhood.”

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“They kind of stand for their own, a lot,” Kuzma said. “But the talks I’ve had with good policemen … it’s about the training aspect. That’s the biggest thing. They only have budgets from that standpoint to have the proper training and knowledge. You have cops that work in, let’s say a cop works in Los Angeles, works in Compton, but lives in Santa Clarita. He doesn’t know the area. He doesn’t know the people or the background.

“So, the biggest thing is not just defunding police, but actually giving them the proper resources and training to better themselves. For instance, [his hometown] Flint, Mich. Everyone wants to talk about defunding the police, but for a place like there, they actually need to hire more police. It’s a city of 100,000 people, and we have like 95 cops. So, one cop has to service 10,000 people. That doesn’t make sense.”

Kuzma said the conversations with police in the bubble have been productive.

“It’s not like me telling them, ‘Cops are bad. What are you guys doing?’” Kuzma said. “It’s about having that honest dialogue to really figure out what they see from their perspective. Everybody wants to bash police, but you got to look at their lens too sometimes and figure out why things are happening.”

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Lakers proud of defense

The Lakers took the most pride in their defense during their first-round series against Portland, which had been the highest-scoring team going into the playoffs. It gives them confidence as they move ahead.

“Being able to guard the great guards that Portland has is only gonna help me guard the great guards that Houston has, and then coming into whoever else can play, it doesn’t matter,” Kuzma said, expecting the Rockets to advance past Oklahoma City. “It’s all a steppingstone to getting better, especially for us; it was huge. A lot of people said we couldn’t guard the three, we didn’t really have really dynamic perimeter defense. And we showed people that we did that.”

Portland used bigger lineups against the Lakers to try to handle their size, often playing 7-footers Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside together. It’s more likely the Lakers will face smaller lineups in the second round, especially if they play the Rockets.

“What I love about what we did this year is we built in the flexibility to play both styles every game that we play,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We play some big lineups and some small lineups as part of our normal rotation and part of what we do. So if we were to go small for higher volumes, it’s still within who the Lakers are this season. So we’re prepared to do both, to be flexible and counter any attack that we see.”

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Rondo return near

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo participated in practice Monday as well as some drills Sunday, which was an off day.

Rondo has not played since the NBA’s restart when he learned he broke his right thumb during practice July 12. He left the bubble to have surgery and returned Aug. 13.

Ganguli reported from Orlando, Fla.; Turner reported from Los Angeles.


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