LOS ANGELES — Less than two hours before Friday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma found out he would get the call for his first career start in place of the injured Larry Nance Jr.
Kuzma stepped up in the moment recording the second double-double of his brief career with 21 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in 39 minutes that proved be pivotal in the 124-112 win over the Nets.
The bulk of his production came in the first half as he had 17 points on an efficient 7-of-8 shooting along with five rebounds. This included a perfect 5-of-5 shooting in the second he scored 13 points in the period that helped give the Lakers a comfortable 64-55 lead at intermission.
It was a performance that only further fueled the growing hype around Kuzma, who is now averaging 15.7 points through the first nine games of the season. This is second-best on the team just a smidge behind Brook Lopez (15.9), who has remained quite impressed by the play of the 22-year-old.
“He’s so talented,” Lopez said. “He’s taking advantage of his opportunity. His confidence is there. It’s a great combination for him to have.”
What has stood out from Kuzma’s strong start to his rookie campaign has been the decisiveness with his shot selection attacking the paint when a lane opens up or taking a jumper when space is there. In line with that, he voiced that he believes his game is better suited for the NBA than the collegiate level because of the improvement in his individual game.
“My jump shot got a lot better,” Kuzma said. “I am able to increase my game & guys have to guard me out there and when they close out I can attack and make plays.”
That said, his play on Friday night caught the attention of head coach Luke Walton, especially due to playing in a heavy minute workload in the second night of a back-to-back.
“He’ll play like this. I hopefully won’t play him 40 minutes night in and night out,” Walton said. “He was ready to play tonight, and he did a good job of fighting through any fatigue he had and making big-time plays for us.”
Although Walton was non-committal about Kuzma drawing the start once again on Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the rookie forward has proven once again that he’s ready for anything that’s handed his way.