Friday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks featured plenty of big performances from the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder took most of the headlines as the quartet combined for 90 of the Lakers’ 138 Christmas Day points.
One player that flew under the radar was Kyle Kuzma. The fourth-year forward had an impactful 22 minutes on the court, scoring 13 points on 3-4 shooting from deep while adding six rebounds and two assists, as well as a block. On top of his boxscore numbers, Kuz added solid defense and several hustle plays that kept the Lakers afloat throughout the second half as they blew out the Mavs.
Head coach Frank Vogel did not let Kuzma’s play go unnoticed acknowledging that while the scoring numbers might not pop out, Kuzma has improved in impacting games positively in numerous other ways. Here’s Vogel’s full quote from his post-game media availability courtesy of Alex Regla:
Kyle Kuzma had another solid outing tonight, albeit slightly overshadowed amongst the team's other big performances. Kuzma finished the night with 13 points (3/4 from three) 6 rebounds and dished out a couple of assists
Here is what Frank Vogel had to say about his performance: pic.twitter.com/dXjCwqLkg1
— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) December 26, 2020
Kuzma just signed a long-term extension with the Lakers, perhaps signifying their belief that he has shown that growth despite not scoring at the rate or efficiency he did as a rookie. And they have a point; Kuzma has become a much better defender and passer since then and, more recently, he has done an incredible job of playing within his role and not trying to force things.
Hitting shots is still important for Kuz, of course. His impact is infinitely higher if he’s spacing the floor the way he was on Christmas. If he can become a reliable shooter, the Lakers suddenly have a 3-and-D wing with an off-the-bounce game that’s quite unique around the NBA. Until then, it’s good to see the 25-year-old continue to grow his game.