(Joseph Sherman/Los Angeles Lakers)
Kuz Intent Upon Representing the Red, White and Blue
Is Kyle Kuzma going to be the latest Laker to don Team USA's colors?
We don't know just yet, but we likely will in the next couple of days.
The Flint, Mich. native has played well throughout the team's mini camp in Las Vegas and now in practices at the UCLA Health Training Center, but remains one of 15 players trying to make a 12-man final roster.
USA Head Coach Gregg Popovich said they’re still evaluating a group that includes some players that seem locks to make it – like potential starting backcourt Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell – and several that are on the bubble.
The Spurs coach was asked specifically about Kuzma, and said “He’s doing well,” before suggesting he’s going to focus on the team and not individuals. He continued: “Everybody’s doing well ... it’s a really good group. We’ve been impressed with their sacrifice ... their work ethic is absolutely wonderful.”
It would mean a lot for him to make the team, and earn minutes for his country.
“Big-time for me,” he said. “I (want) all the basketball I can get. I’m a young player still. I’m not a vet. I need basketball experience to help me in the long run, especially with this upcoming season.”
Same court, different colors pic.twitter.com/Nd3HxqPD5I— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 14, 2019
It’s been a little bit since the Purple and Gold were representing other colors, by the way. Kobe Bryant most recently was a major factor in securing gold medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, while Lamar Odom played towards the 2010 FIBA World Championship trophy.
LeBron James got gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 games long before he was a Laker (we’ll see if LeBron joins the 2020 Olympic squad).
The FIBA 2019 Basketball World Cup is set to take place in China from Aug. 31-Sept. 15.
In the televised scrimmage between the 15 finalists and the USA Select Team, Kuzma played mostly with the second unit, scoring seven points on 3 of 4 FG’s plus four boards and an assist in 10 minutes of the 97-78 win. He also added the highlight of the game with a driving hammer dunk.
“Everything is going great,” said Kuzma. “Been a great camp so far. Learning, getting better every single day, (gaining) chemistry and camaraderie with these guys. It’s been a great experience.”
Kuz said he’s been focused on showing what he can do both offensively and defensively, noting that rebounding has been a priority given the team’s needs. He appears to be in great shape physically after an offseason full of hard work, and has been getting up and down the floor with ease.
Wednesday's practice featured the insertion of some offensive and defensive sets, though the squad slipped in a scrimmage against a collection of G-League and overseas players coached by Jeff Van Gundy. Losses to lesser known or talented groups has been known to happen in practices, however, given the desperation with which the unknowns play, compared to the established players sometimes just looking to execute the schemes they're developing.
Kuzma is hoping that some of what he's been focusing on translates to the regular season, as he plays a key support role around LeBron and Anthony Davis.
“Being able to hit open shots (is key),” he said. “Obviously LeBron and AD are going to have a lot of attention. A lot of the defense is going to be geared on those guys ... so ... hit shots. Being a great cutter. Running the floor and being a good teammate.”
But before all that, Kuz wants to get on the court with his fellow Americans. He certainly needs to showcase these Kobe’s on a larger stage!
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