Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 31 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Christmas Day, the most by a rookie since LeBron James, and only the second rookie in the past 50 years to drop 30 on December 25. Head coach Luke Walton was less impressed by that stat and more impressed by Kuzma’s demeanor and the way he came into practice to work, after the Lakers lost their sixth of their past seven games.
“What’s most impressive to me about him is, he’s upset after the games because even though he played great, we lost,” Walton said. “He comes in here today, just hungry to work. Those are the things that have me excited.”
Kuzma though, is playing a ton of minutes, especially with the Lakers short-handed due to injuries. Over the past five games, Kuzma is averaging 39.8 minutes per game, and while Walton would like to decrease his minutes, he’s not sure how…
“I would love to (decrease his minutes),” Walton said. How? “Rely on other guys, it’s next man up. Julius and Larry get more opportunities at the four, but at the same time, we’re trying to play a certain way and win these games. If Kuzma looks healthy, it’s tough to get him out of there. It really is. The way he’s playing, it’s hard to get him off the floor. I would like to ideally play him less than he’s playing right now as a rookie. Just to keep him healthy throughout the whole season.”
In comparison over the past five games, Julius Randle is averaging 20.9 minutes and Larry Nance Jr. is averaging 17.2 minutes. It will be interesting to see how Walton addresses this moving forward.
Ingram on his quads (right quadriceps contusion, left quadriceps tendinitis): “I’ll see how it feels going through shootaround (on Wednesday). If it feels like it does today (at practice), I’ll definitely play.”
Walton on how Ingram looked in practice: “He looked really good. I almost ‘silly-fined’ him for looking so good today and not playing last night.”
Ingram on Kyle Kuzma: “He’s been really, really good. Scoring the basketball, getting everybody involved. His confidence is really high. He’s a natural scorer. It’s important for him to take the shots he’s taking. I think he’s been a really, really good asset to the team.”
Walton on when he realized Kuzma would be a feature point of the offense: “I think he showed the ability in Summer League. Obviously, you’ve got to realize who you’re playing against in Summer League, and what the NBA is like. He showed the ability to be able to be that type of guy… You get to the season, you expect he’ll hit a rookie wall or he’ll play against higher-level competition. And, it just doesn’t phase him. He’ll have off nights, he’ll have off moments, but he just keeps coming. He’s doing a really nice job of establishing himself early.”
Ingram’s New Years Resolution: “Some fresh legs. November was a really, really, really good month for me. I just want to try to get back to that. Get back to that speed of the game and just be more effective for my teammates.”
– Ingram said his quad injuries feel like soreness more than anything else, and that he needs to focus on better recovery after games.
– Ingram’s hoping he can get back to that pace and speed of the game he played with throughout November.
– Walton said that Kuzma was calling players and coaches in the offseason trying to get people to either go to the weight room with him or get shots up.
– Walton said Kuzma is still tinkering on his shot mechanics, working on his release point, but that it’s a lot better than where it was at to start the season.