Lakers coach Luke Walton says there’s a ‘fine line’ with Kyle Kuzma’s bad shots and ‘gunslinger mentality’
After dealing with a nine-game losing streak recently, the Los Angeles Lakers have begun to play well once again. Luke Walton’s squad has now won seven of their last nine games with their latest victory coming against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics.
One of the main reasons for the team’s success against one of the best teams in the league on Tuesday was the play of rookie Kyle Kuzma. The Utah product had another solid performance scoring a team-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Kuzma also showed off his passing ability adding three jaw-dropping assists to Larry Nance Jr. under the basket.
Although Kuzma played well and was crucial to the team’s third straight win, Walton admits there’s a fine line between the rookie’s attack-mode mentality and bad shots.
“It’s a fine line with Kuz,” Walton said of the rookie forward. “We need his scoring and we need his gunslinger mentality. But with that comes some bad shots. So we show him all of his shots, and we talk about good ones versus bad ones. What I thought he did a really nice job of tonight was being a playmaker when he gets going. And that really demoralizes a defense. When he drives and they come to double him and he throws a pass to Larry for a dunk, that’s really winning basketball right there. It’s going to be a constant learning curve. There’s not a definite answer when you’re dealing with some that plays like Kuz plays, because that’s part of what makes him so good. It’s the freedom we let him play with. But there’s responsibility that comes with that, and we’re on him about his shot selection a lot.”
Kuzma is currently the Lakers’ leading scorer ahead of Jordan Clarkson (14.4) and Brandon Ingram (15.5) at 16.7 points per game. The 22-year-old has been able to keep up his point production whether he’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench and despite a few bad shooting performances here and there, he’s maintained his focused while being arguably the team’s best offensive weapon at this point.
After the game, Clarkson and Julius Randle talked about Kuzma’s impressive performance against the Celtics. Randle finished with a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“He was great,” Randle said of Kuzma. “He was out there just not thinking about anything, just playing hard, playing without a conscience. He was big time for us today.”
Clarkson, who also had a solid performance off the bench with 22 points, chimed in on Kuzma’s 17-point fourth quarter which was a season-high for any Lakers player in a quarter.
“Big,” Clarkson said of Kuzma’s 17-point fourth quarter Big plays. Big shots. It is good to see that out of him.”
With the team getting their third win in a row and fifth straight win at home, the team will embark on a five-game road trip. Kuzma and company will face off against the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, and Oklahoma City Thunder before heading back to the Staples Center to take on the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center on Feb. 6.