Kuzma Turning Heads in First Week of Preseason
The moment that he checked into Monday’s preseason game, Kyle Kuzma was greeted by a roar of “Kuuuz!” from the STAPLES Center crowd.
The 27th-overall draft pick has rapidly become a fan favorite, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Kuzma led the Lakers in scoring for both of their preseason games, averaging 21.0 points and shooting 62.1 percent from the field (18-of-29).
But head coach Luke Walton is impressed with how Kuzma always brings it, even when there isn’t a crowed there chanting his name.
“He doesn’t care that it’s the preseason, he doesn’t care that it’s practice, he doesn’t care if it’s a shooting drill — he wants to win,” Walton said at Tuesday’s practice. “I love that about him.”
That said, Kuzma does still have plenty to work on.
Right now, Walton wants the 22-year-old to ensure that he channels his energy into the structure that the team wants to play within. Kuzma himself would like to see his rebounding total rise after snagging only six boards in two games.
But he is also finding time to enjoy the moment, particularly in the middle of two games against the Denver Nuggets and backup point guard Monte Morris — Kuzma’s lifelong friend from their hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Best friends since they met in second grade, the two stay in touch “all the time,” texting each other every week.
While Kuzma continues to win over Lakers fans, Morris — the owner of the NCAA record for assist-to-turnover ratio — is looking to prove himself on a two-way contract with the Nuggets.
Though their situations may be different, Kuzma sees two kids from Flint making it to the NBA as a point of pride for a city that has been through rough times recently.
“A lot of negative things go along with my city: violence, the water situation and whatnot,” Kuzma said. “But it’s pretty cool that two guys get drafted and are getting a little bit of playing time at this level. It kind of brings a little positive light to our community.”
The Lakers were hit by a rash of injuries over the last 24 hours, as Lonzo Ball (mild left ankle sprain) and Larry Nance Jr. (sprained right index finger) did not practice, while Brandon Ingram was taken out midway through after bumping heads with another player in Monday’s game.
Walton said that Ball’s injury isn’t “anything too serious,” but that he’d be re-evaluated on Wednesday for that night’s game in Ontario — just a few minutes from his hometown of Chino Hills.
Meanwhile, Nance’s X-rays came back negative, and he is considered day-to-day. Ingram will meet with a doctor later on Tuesday to determine his status.
The Lakers did also receive some good injury news, as Brook Lopez, Andrew Bogut and Josh Hart all practiced in full. Their availabilities for Wednesday has yet to be determined.