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Kuzma Continues to Impress with Team USA
Playing in an exhibition game against the Australian National Team that was over before most Americans woke up, Kyle Kuzma continued his strong camp with Team USA by drilling 4 of 5 3-pointers towards all 12 of his points in a 102-86 win in Melbourne.
In fact, his only miss came on a half-court attempt to beat the first quarter buzzer after a 2:30 a.m. Pacific tip. The soon-to-be third-year player got hot early, canning a trio of 3’s to score nine of USA’s first 22 points.
Kuzma continued a pattern of being one of the first subs for head coach Gregg Popovich, and played for 19:26, second among bench players and sixth overall.
On offense, Kuzma moved really well without the basketball throughout the game, and didn’t force any of his own offense. He was, however, ready to pull the trigger when open, and 5 of his 6 overall attempts came from long distance. He continued to compete defensively, and added a steal with two defensive rebounds.
He even led a t-shirt toss after the game, with “Kuz” chants echoing in his ears from the tonnage of Lakers fans Down Under.
It was clear from observing Kuzma at last week’s USA practices at L.A.’s UCLA Health Training Center that he’s fully bought into what the coaching staff has been preaching, and how transferable that will be to the upcoming NBA season. Not forcing shots … canning 3’s … cutting to the basket … working hard defensively … attacking the glass … those are all things that Lakers coach Frank Vogel will welcome with open arms as Kuz plays a key role supporting LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
In fact, Kuzma may be the player who becomes most essential to step in and fill some of the void left in the wake of the torn ACL suffered by DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie’s skill set is certainly hard to match regardless of how L.A. adds to their depth at center, but it’s unlikely any roster addition at this point can match Kuzma’s talent. Line ups can be adjusted accordingly, especially thanks to the versatility of both Davis and LeBron, who can do most things on both ends of the floor.
Fortunately for the Lakers, there seems to be no greater springboard into the season than playing for Team USA. It’s helped countless of players in the past – including James and Davis – to get in tip-top shape both physically and mentally approaching NBA training camp, and thus far seems to be boosting Kuz significantly.
The Americans have another game against the Aussies on Saturday, and face Canada in Sydney on Monday before the squad heads to China in advance of the FIBA World Cup that begins on Sept. 1. Popovich has one more cut to make, but considering Kuzma’s playing time, impact and adaption to his prescribed role, it would be a shock if he isn’t a key part of the rotation.
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