April 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Kyle Kuzma on his role this season with the Lakers: ‘I have no idea’

Kyle Kuzma chewed on his bottom lip and shook his head. He had just finished his third preseason game, his third start and the Lakers’ third win.

He’s been remarkably consistent on the way into the season, making nearly half his three-point shots while scoring 21.5 points per game. Wednesday was more of the same, 23 points on better than 50% shooting in the Lakers’ 112-107 win in Phoenix.

But still he shook his head, showing frustration and confusion over a familiar question that Kuzma’s chased an answer to for the two-plus seasons.

Does he know what his role is going to be with this team?

“I have no idea,” Kuzma said tersely. “We’ll see.”

Kuzma, 25, brought up the uncertainty in his role twice before being directly asked about it. He’s eligible for a contract extension, and if the Lakers can’t reach a deal with Kuzma, he’ll be a restricted free agent come summer.

“I just think in my career my role has changed kind of every year,” he said Wednesday. “So for me I’ve had to adapt my game and figure out ways to affect the game in different ways, much more than other guys on that trajectory.”

Kuzma is a former Rising Stars Game MVP. The summer before last season, he made Team USA before an injury cost him the chance to compete at the FIBA World Cup. But as the Lakers pushed toward a championship, his role got smaller. His minutes dipped. So did his shots and so did his scoring.

But he won a title.

Now entering this year, Kuzma seems ready for more. But with a crowded rotation, it’s not clear yet whether the Lakers can satisfy his appetite.

“He’s still going to be asked to carry a scoring load when he’s out there, to make the right play offensively while being in attack mode and being very aggressive and to continue to be a big body that can guard multiple positions for us,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said pregame about Kuzma’s role. “Where that lands, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, is still to be determined. But we have a great luxury with Kyle, with a lot of guys on this team, that have experience doing both.

“Where the rotation is going to land is still to be determined.”

His coaches and teammates have praised Kuzma’s work ethic as they acknowledged how important this time is in his career.

“He’s figuring it out. I mean, when Bron came two years ago — obviously Bron gets all the attention and Kuz tried to figure out how to work with that. Then with me coming last year, he’s tried to figure that out. And I think he’s doing a great job of finding his role on this team,” Anthony Davis said after Wednesday’s win. “We want him to come in and be aggressive. He’s making the right plays. He’s reading the defenses a lot better, even from last year. There’s some plays in his game where he’ll make the great pass. So he’s continued to learn the game, continued to figure out his role with our team and he developed his shot tremendously from last year to this year, just in the summertime grinding.

“It’s going to be a big year for him. He’s going to play a bigger role for us this year. And we need him to continue to do what Kuz do.”