Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma might be the toast of the fanbase right now, but him being the city’s favorite rookie was the longest of longshots heading into the season.
That title appeared to be carved in stone for Lonzo Ball entering the year, however, his historic shooting struggles to begin his career has led to intense criticism and psychoanalysis from media and fans alike in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, Kuzma defended Ball to reporters, and at the grand opening of Dunk Contest’s Los Angeles location, he explained why he felt it was important for him to do things like that.
“He’s my teammate and he’s very misunderstood as a person. There’s a lot of media out there and people that expect him to be something that he’s not right now and that’s okay because he’s a rookie,” Kuzma said. “He’s going to be a great player in this league in the future. That may come in the next game or the next 20 games, or it might not happen for a few years, but I just don’t like how the media portrays it.”
The latest psychoanalysis of Ball ranged from deciding whether or not a haircut is evidence of an attempt at a new start, to breakdowns of his declining to enter the Lakers-Suns scuffle.
“I mean if Lonzo tripped on this (points at a table leg) and fell down that’d be on ESPN,” Kuzma said. “So I just don’t like how it all is, but he handles it well and is a professional.”
Kuzma standing up for his teammate and best friend on the Lakers is expected and demonstrates the tight bond he and Ball have built so quickly.
He’s also not wrong. The media beast that sends out breathless updates on Ball’s latest haircut and every other little move he makes is literally unprecedented for a rookie (there were no push notifications during LeBron James’ rookie year) and isn’t exactly creating a friendly environment for a first-year player to develop in.
As Ball deals with that, his teammates sticking up for him certainly can’t hurt. If and when Ball reaches his ceiling he won’t need defending, but for now, it probably helps to know Kuzma has his back.
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