Ashley Landis/Associated Press
Kyle Kuzma is able to take the following step—each on and off the courtroom.
On the courtroom, he is decided to increase his position and present he may be the point of interest of an offense. Off of it, he is prepared to present the general public a glimpse of his private life along with his Hanging With Kuz video sequence, set to debut Thursday solely on LG OLED televisions.
Hanging With Kuz is a multipart sequence that follows Kuzma on a tour of his new dwelling and sees him kicking it with actor Travis “Taco” Bennett, his longtime buddy. Kuzma and Bennett say their friendship shines by way of the display screen, bringing a lightheartedness and free-flowing really feel to the present.
“The sequence brings a light-weight to my life and Taco’s life as effectively, with an emphasis on how friendship performs part of residing good,” Kuzma tells Bleacher Report.
“It was humorous. Just him being my homie made it simpler,” Bennett provides. “Quite a lot of time we had been laughing simply to chuckle as a result of we had been idiots. Working with LG was sick as a result of I’m an fool…like we have been homies. We’ve been eatin’ and s–t and doin’ s–t, and this was a strategy to cheat. We set to work with one another, and that was hella enjoyable. Quite a lot of time you get to work with individuals, and a majority of time it is somebody you do not actually know that effectively. But to get to work together with your homies and do s–t that was tight.
“Our chemistry is simply our chemistry in normal, so simply to be playful in entrance of the digital camera is not laborious to do. So I believe, bouncing off that, it was simply very easy to make jokes and really feel snug.”
The lightheartedness was a welcome change for Kuzma, recent off a disappointing 2020-21 marketing campaign that noticed the Lakers go from hoisting championship gold to being eradicated in the primary circular of the NBA playoffs. Kuzma, who averaged 12.9 factors and 6.1 rebounds, says inconsistent participant roles and accidents had been amongst a number of components in the Lakers’ disappointing playoff run.
“A little bit little bit of all the pieces. Injuries all through the season, altering roles, sure guys in the lineup, sure guys not in the lineup. The NBA season is already mentally draining, and when you’ve gotten lots of that, it simply provides to it,” Kuzma mentioned.
Perhaps essentially the most draining issue—from a psychological and bodily standpoint—was the Lakers’ lack of relaxation between seasons. The Lakers got solely a 73-day offseason between the 2020 NBA Finals and the beginning of a condensed 72-game common season. LeBron James and Anthony Davis each missed extended stretches due to accidents, and the 2021 playoffs have been marred by stars compelled to overlook time—resulting in criticism of the league by James.
Kuzma agrees with James’ evaluation that the shortened offseason led to the barrage of accidents.
“If you take a look at all of the groups that had been in the bubble and performed lengthy, that they had lots of accidents,” Kuzma mentioned. “Look at Denver with Murray, even wanting on the Heat this 12 months what number of accidents that they had, together with us, too. Having AD out, Bron out, [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] out a couple of video games, [Alex] Caruso out a couple of video games, lots of people missed video games, and I contribute that to the bubble.
“If you concentrate on the accidents from a participant’s perspective, it wasn’t sufficient time for gamers to get their our bodies prepared. But on the identical time, you gotta exit and compete and care for your physique. I’m undoubtedly not complaining; they pay us some huge cash to go on the market and compete.”
LeBron James @KingJames
They all didn’t wanna hearken to me in regards to the begin of the season. I knew precisely what would occur. I solely wished to guard the effectively being of the gamers which finally is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These accidents isn’t simply “PART OF THE GAME”. It’s the dearth of PURE
The hobbled Lakers’ season ended with a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns, with Davis struggling a important groin harm that value him Game 5 and most of Games Four and 6. The Lakers held a 2-1 sequence lead when Davis went down in Game 4, and Phoenix went on to earn their first Finals berth since 1993. While some followers might surmise this implies the Lakers can be in the Finals now if it weren’t for accidents, Kuzma noticed championship-caliber chemistry in the Suns.
“I noticed them as a possible Finals staff simply off their chemistry,” Kuzma mentioned. “Last 12 months with us, we had unbelievable chemistry and all people sort of jelled and knew their position and had enjoyable doing it, had enjoyable enjoying with one another. I seen enjoying them, that very same kind of really feel. Everybody was speaking, speaking, having enjoyable, smiling with one another. Usually, when you’ve gotten a staff linked like that, you win large.”
This season’s Lakers didn’t play with the identical stage of pleasure. The staff made a number of offseason tweaks to the roster, with veterans Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard among the many names that had been despatched packing in favor of Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Andre Drummond. While the latter group arguably brings extra from a person expertise standpoint, the on-court chemistry did not attain the identical stage.
Roster upheaval and accidents led to a wholesome Kuzma being shape-shifted into a number of totally different roles this season—a degree of frustration for the 25-year-old. Kuzma is in search of extra consistency in his position subsequent season.
“My greatest factor is I simply wish to play inside a constant position,” Kuzma mentioned. “If I’ve that capability, I’ll be capable to showcase what I can actually do. There had been components of this 12 months—and even anyplace else in my profession—when I’m in a constant house, I’m on the market dealing with the ball, making teammates higher, scoring, capturing, defending, rebounding. I believe if I’m in that house, I’ll be good.”
If you are sensing irritation, it might be laborious accountable him. Kuzma entered the league in 2017 as a late first-round select of Utah and immediately blossomed, ending behind solely future All-NBAers Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum in Rookie of the Year voting. A 12 months later, he was the Lakers’ second-leading scorer in James’ first season with the franchise; he was the one member of their younger core not despatched to New Orleans as a part of the Anthony Davis commerce.
Davis’ arrival meant a seismic position adjustment for Kuzma, who grew to become a sixth man throughout their championship marketing campaign and noticed his numbers dip throughout the board. Injuries to James and Davis had Kuzma shuffling in and out of the beginning lineup this season, with 32 begins towards 36 video games coming as a reserve.
Kuzma’s numbers had been stronger throughout the board when he began in his pure Four place, and he nonetheless sees himself as a participant able to averaging 25 factors per activity and reaching All-Star heights.
“I undoubtedly can. I undoubtedly imagine that, too. I do not actually care what no person thinks or says. I do know myself, and I do know my capability. It’s laborious to be constant in an inconsistent position. I’m excited for a extra constant house subsequent 12 months,” Kuzma mentioned.
“I’ve performed an important job each offseason of making an attempt to construct one thing and add one thing to my activity. I’ve turned myself into an important defender. My rookie 12 months, I used to be a cease signal on protection. I did not actually cease anyone. Now, whether or not it is elite wings, Four males, even level guards and capturing guards, I’ve the flexibility to protect 4 positions now and actually have an effect on the sport on that finish of the courtroom.”
The numbers again up Kuzma’s evaluation. A below-average defender who was often thrown on an opponent’s worst offensive participant early in his profession, Kuzma grew to become one of many Lakers’ most versatile defenders final season. Opponents shot 2.6 p.c worse than their usual when Kuzma was the first defender, and he makes use of his size effectively on closeouts, holding opponents to only 29.7 p.c capturing from three.
Kuzma says he is now intent on fixing the opposite main flaw some see in his activity: ball-handling.
After taking a pair weeks of relaxation following the Lakers’ elimination, Kuzma hit the fitness center to give attention to fine-tuning his deal with in hopes of gaining extra offensive duty. He wishes the belief to steer offensive units and assist make teammates higher reasonably than keep stationary on offense. In 2020-21, a career-high 58.2 p.c of Kuzma’s pictures got here with zero dribbles; solely 20.6 p.c of his pictures had been pull-ups.
“I’m engaged on my ball-handling so I’m capable of get the place I need on the courtroom extra effectively and never essentially be an in-the-corner kind of shooter,” Kuzma mentioned.
Kuzma feels like a participant able to blossom into an on-court chief, somebody who has spent his childhood studying from greats and desires an opportunity to use what he is realized for himself. He mentions James and the late Kobe Bryant amongst his favourite gamers and speaks of their infectious enthusiasm when requested to check the all-time greats.
“They’re clearly two totally different individuals, and it is actually laborious to check each of them. They’re simply so vastly totally different, however the one factor in widespread is that they’re simply each winners in life,” Kuzma mentioned. “They assault all the pieces with a sure kind of enthusiasm, whether or not it is basketball, whether or not it is enterprise, whether or not it is life, whether or not it is figuring out, their strategy to get to the fitness center or their strategy to get to their our bodies or lifting is only a winner’s enthusiasm. They’re simply enthusiastically optimistic about all the pieces. Their confidence ranges are very, very excessive and really, very uncommon.”
Hanging With Kuz is accessible solely on LG OLED televisions. It’s the second launch of LG’s “Only on OLED” sequence.