At halftime of Saturday’s game in Houston, the Lakers needed to resolve something defensively. Russell Westbrook It was becoming too problematic, and the Lakers sent Rockets stars to the free throw line too often. They needed a bigger body on him, someone who could handle his physique.
So Rajon Rondo thrown away Kyle kuzma aside and asked if he could do it.
“Of course,” Kuzma told him.
He has never been short of confidence, either on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. But now in his third season in the NBA, Kuzma has tried to improve a little more defensively every year. A player who was once talked about as just an offensive threat, showed on Saturday that it could be more than that for the Lakers when asked. And he is not afraid to share that the trip has been difficult and is ongoing.
“People think it’s an easy thing to do, play against the best players in the world, but I only did a good job in my last three years of improving every year,” Kuzma said. “Especially when entering the league as a young player, everyone expects you to be perfect and direct A in everything, but that’s not the case. For me, that’s what I want to do in every game, go out and prove myself defensively. It’s hard to shake narratives. People say I don’t play defense, but I know what I’m doing. “
It wasn’t just Kuzma’s individual defense at Westbrook that served his team on Saturday. His offensive contributions became more powerful in the second half and especially in the last quarter, when Kuzma scored 10 points. But his defensive intensity proved to be solid throughout the game.
“Containment only”, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He works very hard at that end of the floor and we were, not only individually in Russell, but we were in many rotations tonight. Much more than I feel comfortable, personally, but he has length and athleticism to compete in those situations and he did a great job tonight. “
Being a successful defensive player is not just about handling individual confrontations. Kuzma, like many young players, had to learn what it took to play a strong team defense. He had to understand the opposite offenses and learn to trust his teammates.
“He is taking the challenge” Lebron James He said when asked how Kuzma has improved defensively during the year and a half that they have played together. “He is taking the challenge and is believing in the boys behind him who communicate to put him in the right position.” When you accept the challenge and you have guys behind you that talk to you, that helps. “
James’ comments were transmitted to Kuzma on Saturday night. What James noticed about him, Kuzma said, is a sign of how he has grown.
“It is part of maturity and the next step, or overcoming a certain plateau,” said Kuzma. “Every time you accept challenges or face adversities, it is a good omen for yourself, no matter if you do it successfully or fail, it is always a lesson.”
Davis is still questionable
Anthony Davis It didn’t work on Sunday morning before the Lakers traveled from Houston to Boston. Davis remains questionable about the Lakers’ injury report for Monday’s game against the Celtics.
He has lost five games with what the Lakers have called bruised major gluteus. The Lakers initially diagnosed Davis with a sacral bruise, which is a bone hematoma near his coccyx, but they updated the diagnosis to a less severe soft tissue hematoma after they had an MRI later that night.
The Lakers also mentioned Rondo as questionable. A week has been lost with an avulsion fracture in his right ring finger.