Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma is standing up for his head coach in a big way amidst the team’s recent turmoil.
Speaking on Monday, Kuzma gave a strong defense of Lakers coach Luke Walton. Here is what he had to say, per Lakers Nation’s Matthew Moreno:
Kyle Kuzma gave Luke Walton a ringing endorsement. "Luke is my guy, I love playing for him. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.
"At the end of the day, Luke isn't the one going out, shooting 2-for-15, turning the ball over or missing free throws. That's us."
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) January 8, 2018
Kuzma’s comments come just one day after LaVar Ball, the father of fellow Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, caused major controversy by blasting Walton and saying he had lost control of the team (full remarks here). The Lakers have also lost 11 of their last 13 games and are a Western Conference-worst 12-27.
Nevertheless, Kuzma’s ardent support for Walton is a sign the Lakers players are still all-in on their coach, and management appears to feel the same way.
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For all of the hype surrounding young Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, his biggest fan may very well be his own teammate.
Before the Lakers played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group revealed that fellow Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has a Kuzma-themed “Kuzmania” T-shirt hanging in his locker.
Lonzo Ball may get all the hype, but even he has a “Kuzmania” t-shirt hanging in his locker.
— Bill Oram-pum-pum-PUN (@billoram) December 26, 2017
Kuzma had recently advertised the limited-edition tees on his Twitter account.
Be the first to cop one of my #Kuzmania t-shirts I’m only dropping 1000 shirts and 27 of them will be signed by me. Exclusively sold on my website so go check it out! #kuzmania https://t.co/A6JRtWgGPL pic.twitter.com/kbvCRcOx4h
— kuz (@kylekuzma) December 17, 2017
With Kuzma, the No. 27 overall pick in this year’s draft, arguably having a better rookie season than Ball, the No. 2 overall pick, many seem to like pitting the two teammates against each other. Nevertheless, it sounds like it’s nothing but love between the Big Baller Brand and the Kuzmania Brand.
Kyle Kuzma’s scalding hot rookie season continues, and he soared to some new heights in Wednesday’s upset win over the league-best Houston Rockets.
The LA Lakers forward finished with a career-high 38 points on 12-of-17 shooting and 7-of-10 from deep as the Lakers snapped the Rockets’ 14-game winning streak with a 122-116 victory in Houston. He also added seven rebounds and four assists for good measure.
Those numbers put him in historic territory, per Lakers reporter Mike Trudell.
Via Lakers PR, @kylekuzma
is the first rookie in NBA history to score at least 38 points, with 7+ made three pointers, while shooting at least 70% from the field.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 21, 2017
The 22-year-old Kuzma was all business after his career night, however.
Kuz wasn’t too impressed with himself postgame. Said he expected to be scoring like this. Confidence for days. pic.twitter.com/GTxiwtLz3K
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 21, 2017
Kuzma, who went No. 27 overall in this year’s draft, entered play Wednesday averaging 16.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on 49.8 percent shooting from the field and 37.8 percent from deep. Some of his NBA peers can already tell how special he is going to be, and it’s probably time for everybody else to start recognizing The Legend of The Kuz as well.
- Kyle Kuzma
Markelle Fultz vs. Lonzo Ball was supposed to be the central storyline that dominated this year’s rookie class. Pick No. 1 vs. pick No. 2. Former Pac-12 adversaries who often seemed to have genuine acrimony towards each other. Game-changing talents at the point guard position, each one heading to a major market in the hopes that he would rejuvenate a once great but currently dormant franchise. What wasn’t to like? But then life happened. An ugly shot form or two, a suspect shoulder injury here, a family scandal involving the Chinese government there, and so forth. Now the spotlight has been taken away by a new group of fabulous first-years. And here are the ones who have been the most impressive through this first month of the 2017-18 NBA season.
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com and ESPN*
Dennis Smith Jr, PG, Dallas Mavericks
I pity the fool who tries to stand between a leaping DSJ and the basket. The No. 9 pick’s bounce has been the stuff of cultural folklore dating back to his high school days, and he is already proving his worth in other dimensions of the game as well. Smith’s 15.8 points per game leads all 2017 draftees. He’s also canning 2.4 triples a contest in November and is taking center stage as the primary initiator of the Dallas offense, leading them in both assist average and usage rate. Smith’s first step is TNT, and he seems to improve in the pick-and-roll with each passing day. Indeed, Junior is a glimmering lantern of hope on a 2-13 Mavs team, and don’t worry, he can still do that other thing too.
Donovan Mitchell, PG/SG, Utah Jazz
Brooklyn Nets big man Trevor Booker is all-in on the Kyle Kuzma hype.
As LA Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma, who has been an absolute stud in both Summer League and preseason play, dropped 18 points on the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, Booker tweeted that Kuzma would be better than Lonzo Ball.
Kyle Kuzma is gonna be better than Lonzo Ball. Just putting it out there.
— Trevor Booker (@35_Fitz) October 11, 2017
Kuzma, 22, has been on a torrid pace this offseason, posting 19.2 points a game in preseason after putting up 21.9 in Summer League. That has led many to label him the steal of the 2017 draft. Obviously, Ball’s hype machine is much bigger, but if Kuzma keeps this up, he might not be too far behind.
Image via Ximo Pierto on YouTube
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One year ago, who would have guessed the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year would be awarded to Malcolm Brogdon?
The Bucks swingman had a nice career at Virginia, of course, but the odds were stacked against him. He was the 36th pick in the draft, and the award traditionally goes to a top pick. Additionally, Brogdon isn’t a flashy offensive player, and he doesn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers. He’s not a spotlight grabber. He’s more of a “glue guy.”
Brogdon’s charge to Rookie of the Year may have been the most surprising in NBA history — it was certainly the most unexpected in my lifetime.
As we look ahead to the upcoming NBA season, will we have another shocker this year? Or will Rookie of the Year go to a top pick, as it does most years?
Below are my top 10 candidates, as it stands today, to claim 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year. Just missing the cut: Josh Jackson, Caleb Swanigan, Bam Adebayo, and Luke Kennard.
10. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Kuzma surprised a lot of people in Vegas this summer. The No. 27 overall pick averaged 21.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and he played with incredible efficiency. He shot 51.4 percent from the field and 48 percent (!) from deep. The 22-year-old forward from Utah was named the Summer League’s Finals MVP and second-team All-Summer League.
Though Kuzma was overshadowed by Lonzo Ball in Summer League and will continue to play in Ball’s shadow throughout this season, he’s looking like an early candidate for “Steal of the Draft.” Additionally, the two look like they may form a dynamic young duo for the Lake Show. Ball and Kuzma ran the floor well together, and Kuzma’s ability to stretch the floor made him a weapon even when he didn’t touch the ball.
The 6-foot-9 Kuzma is also versatile on defense; early indications are that he can switch most positions on the floor. Though the Lakers are a bit log-jammed on the wing (with Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng and Corey Brewer), Kuzma in Summer League looked like a guy who will get minutes for Los Angeles.
9. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks