Despite being 3-6 without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma and the Los Angeles Lakers are entering what should be considered a soft part of their schedule as they are due to face the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
As the Cavaliers (8-35) and Bulls (10-32) are two of the worst teams in the NBA, the Lakers are looking to redeem themselves after recently losing to the New York Knicks (10-32). The Knicks entered that matchup at Staples Center mired in a nine-game losing streak, and they’ve dropped three in a row since.
While Kuzma (lower back contusion) did not play against the Knicks, he is setting the tone in preparation for the Cavaliers. “They’re an NBA team. At the end of the day, they can beat anybody,” Kuzma said after practice.
“We can’t take them lightly. For us, we’ve been kind of up and down, and they’ve been up and down as well. We’ve got to play.”
Months prior to James signing, the Lakers traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cavaliers, which created two max-contract slots for 2018 free agency. As a result, Kuzma believes his former teammate will be extra motivated in his second return to Los Angeles since the trade.
“I bet Jordan is pretty excited,” Kuzma said. “Guessing he’s going to try to give it all he’s got, coming back to L.A. and playing us. I expect him to try to come out and have a big game. We’ve got to be ready for that.”
With the Lakers looking to capitalize on these next two games at Staples Center, Walton hopes the young core has learned from their prior missteps.
“We’ve got to learn from our past, learn from the mistakes we made. Cleveland is very capable, like every team in the NBA. I know they’ve lost a lot in a row, but they jumped out on New Orleans early and were knocking down threes. Even the Houston game, they started that one alright. They’re very capable of playing,” Walton said.
“If we have that same mentality that we did against the Knicks, there’s no reason they can’t beat us. I expect us to learn from that, but yeah, we’ll reference [effort/slow start against the Knicks].”
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