When you are having a difficult season, it is comforting to know that the people around you are carrying the fight. Kyle Kuzma has not had the best regular season but when you play alongside James and Davis, you can get away with it. Although no-one wants to be demoted to the team cheerleader, Kyle Kuzma has been doing his bit for the team by boosting the team leadership. He believes that the team will win the championship because of this leadership with the franchise.
First, let’s explore what has gone wrong, and right, with Kuzma’s season so far. Then, let’s consider what he might mean by leadership – and what he might see as going so well for the Lakers.
How has Kyle Kuzma played this year?
Kuzma is a young player who understands he is still developing. He has spent his second season at the franchise as an opportunity to learn from the giants around him. He seems to be continually seeking out ways to add to his game and so become a cornerstone player in the future Lakers team.
While he has not has a step-out season, Kuzma has made significant improvement on what he has to offer to the team. In the 17 – 18 season, Kuzma only started 37 of the 77 games he played in. This year, he has played in 70 games and started 68 of these. He is a consistent, reliable presence on the court, with an average 18.7 points per game. Unfortunately, his 3-point scoring dropped by 6% over the year but he still finished efficiently at the rim.
Therefore, it might seem harsh to say he has not had a great career, but words like “consistent” and “reliable” are not the adjectives you want when you are playing alongside Davis and James. He also doesn’t have the necessary basketball intelligence as the great players have. He seems to be everything you would want in a solid player rather than a superstar. Maybe working alongside LeBron James will help this young player develop more of the qualities of the elite players – and maybe this is what he means by leadership.
What does he mean by leadership?
As we have noted, it could be that Kyle Kuzma has enough awareness to understand the opportunity he has to learn from James. James has one of the best basketball brains in the NBA – and if you can seek to harness this wealth of knowledge. LeBron, even when injured, will work with the players to help show them what they can work on and what they might be missing. Kuzma still needs to fully recognise his role in the team and the leadership of LeBron could help him here. Everyone notes how LeBron can perfectly envision a play and explain how it will pan out – and then as the game rolls on – it is exactly as he noted. This vision is central to the idea of leadership.
However, it is also fair to suggest that Kuzma also means the coaching staff. Frank Vogel has been a pleasant surprise to many who watch the Lakers. There has been many ups and downs in the coaching department at the LA Lakers and many felt that Vogel would have his work cut out. However, Vogel’s love of a tight defence works wonderfully in juxtaposition to the attacking flair of James and Davis. The Lakers are top five in both offence and defence – proving the right ingredients have been brought together. Vogel has also encouraged his team to be decision-makers, which is exciting when you are a young player like Kuzma seeking to learn his trade.
But what about Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka who inhibit the top offices? Could he mean the rather oddball pairing who have proven to be solid leaders of the Lakers? They are definitely a safe pair of hands. It is only possible for talent to flourish when there is a solid foundation to build from. This year must have been immensely challenging. There is a new head coach, a new president of basketball, the loss of a legend of the club in Kobe Bryant and then the shutdown, with the fear of coronavirus and financial ruin. When you have these pressures bearing down on you, then you need some serious stability from the top offices.
We can only guess
We can really only guess what Kyle Kuzma meant when he said the franchise’s leadership would take the team to the Championship. Maybe, when you are a young player seeking out your role and developing your game wisdom, all levels of leadership are vital. It is obviously inspiring to work alongside great player-leaders like James and Davis. However, you need the management of the franchise to offer a strong foundation that makes this talent functional.
Whatever Kuzma means, we cannot under-estimate the importance of the consistency that he brings to the game. Though he may not yet be playing at his peak, you need the solidity of someone who will always deliver and is willing to constantly learn.