With LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the sideline, Kyle Kuzma stepped up for the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, sinking a layup with 6.9 seconds left that ended up being the difference.
Kuzma nearly notched a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists and addressed what he felt is a common “misconception” about his play after the game.
“I’ve had a lot of adversity since being here. Role changes and obviously big dogs coming here and my role diminishing more and more, but I’m a strong person,” Kuzma told reporters. “People think I don’t love basketball [because of] how I dress, how I dye my hair and everything else. But if you really watch basketball and you understand where I was from my rookie year to where I am now, I’ve really turned myself into a complete, all-around player.”
Kuzma started more than 100 games during his first two seasons but took on a different role once LeBron James and Anthony Davis arrived. Kuzma openly struggled with a move to the bench last season but has since found a way to embrace his position.
“I wouldn’t change my journey for everything,” said Kuzma, who is averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds this season. “It’s been very valuable to watch Bron and AD play. That’s helped me tremendously in my growth and I’m looking to continue getting better and better. That’s what it’s all about.”
Kyle Kuzma on Banner Being Raised: It’s Surreal
The Lakers finished well under .500 during Kuzma’s first two seasons in the NBA, which part of some dark times for supporters of the purple and gold. But with some fans back in Staples Center on Wednesday, there was reason to celebrate, with the team finally unveiling their championship banner.
For Kuzma, it was quite the experience to see banner No. 17 unveiled.
“I’ve been here the longest. I’ve been here through some ugly times,” Kuzma said. “I’ve seen it all, so for me to see the banner unveiled it means a lot. It’s real surreal to me. I’m just really grateful.”
Kyle Kuzma Not Worried About LeBron James
James did not return to the lineup against the Rockets, but the team managed to get it done without both him and Davis, who was nursing a tight groin. There was a report that James could have returned during the back-to-back set, but the four-time MVP is being extra cautious with his injured ankle.
Anthony Davis will also not play tonight against the Rockets after experiencing tightness in his groin last night, sources tell ESPN
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 12, 2021
“We’re all eager to see him back out there, but we also have to be realistic that a high ankle sprain, these things don’t go away quickly,” Vogel said. “I don’t know what percent he’s going to be at. But it’s a challenge with this type of injury going into important games like we’re going to go into.”
All signs point to James returning to the lineup on Saturday, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. The Lakers have just two games remaining, which is limited time for James to find his rhythm after playing just two games since injuring his ankle in March. However, Kuzma isn’t worried about James.
“I don’t really care if he comes back and plays against Indiana or the Pelicans and shoots 45 times to get a rhythm,” Kuzma said. “He’ll find it.”
The Lakers will face the Pacers on Saturday and close out the season on Sunday against the Pelicans.
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