Kyle Kuzma has new contract, still working on Lakers role

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma takes a shot during a preseason game against the Clippers on Dec. 11.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Kyle Kuzma’s contract extension did not bring the clarity he was seeking in regard to his role with the Lakers.

At least in Kuzma’s eyes that doesn’t appear to be the case.

But in the view of Lakers coach Frank Vogel, Kuzma is aware of what’s expected from the fourth-year forward.

As the Lakers prepare to defend their NBA-record-tying 17th championship, Vogel wants the entire team to pull together as one, and, of course, let superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis be the guides.


When asked about his role following Wednesday night’s preseason game at Phoenix, Kuzma said, “I have no idea. We’ll see.”

Vogel said Monday during a Zoom videoconference with reporters that “I spoke” with Kuzma about those comments.

From the expected load management to the unknown of a pandemic-stricken season with no bubble protection, the 2020-21 NBA season will offer unique challenges.

Dec. 21, 2020

Whether Kuzma starts Tuesday night — or the rest of the season, for that matter — in the season opener against the Clippers at Staples Center has yet to be determined.

The three-year extension Kuzma signed for $40 million on Sunday has no bearing on that.

“He was referring to he’s not sure if he’s starting yet or if he’s coming off of the bench,” Vogel said of Kuzma’s comment about his role. “We’ll see that play out [Tuesday] night. I haven’t told our team what we’re planning to do with our rotation yet. We will probably have some fluidity with how we use the many weapons in our arsenal this year.

“So, the No. 1 thing with Kuz in terms of this team is to bring energy on both ends of the floor. He knows what we’re asking him to do with regard to offensively, being more aggressive in catch-and-shoot situations, playing through him some but also complementing Bron and AD and continuing to grow on the defensive end. That much is clear to him. Where he’s going to fall in terms of starting role or coming off of the bench is still to be determined and will likely be fluid throughout the year.”

Kuzma started all four preseason games, averaging 17.5 points per game on 42.5% shooting and 41.6% from three-point range.


He was asked on a conference call Monday if not knowing his role had anything to do with his contract status.

“No. Not at all. I said what I said,” Kuzma said. “It had nothing to do with the contract. Like I said, I wasn’t super bent on trying to get it done at the jump. That was just based upon our team roster and the little that we’d kind of gone through so far.”

The champion Lakers have reloaded, getting younger while LeBron James gets older and Anthony Davis enters his prime, which makes them the favorite to repeat.

Dec. 21, 2020

So, again, Kuzma was asked if he fully understands his role for the Lakers.

“Just play hard and bring energy,” he said. “I think that’s the most …”

So, does that then mean everything will take care of itself?

“We’ll see,” Kuzma said. “I just know to be successful, playing hard and bringing energy is the most important thing.”

The Lakers have so much depth that Vogel will have plenty of options to choose from. The Lakers added playmaking guard Dennis Schroder and veteran wing Wesley Matthews as well as centers Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. Each is a capable passer and scorer.

Kuzma is another player with those skills.

“He’s going to have a big role on our team,” Vogel said of Kuzma. “There’s no question about it. We do have one of the deeper teams in recent memory, really. Not just a deeper team, the deepest team in the NBA this year. But I believe this is one of the deepest teams the NBA has seen in recent memory.

“We’re going to try to use the early part of our season to get a lot of guys acclimated and comfortable with each other. But we have a lot of guys that impact the game, that impact winning and Kuz is definitely one of them.”