While the Los Angeles Lakers went 3-2 on their road trip, capped off by back-to-back wins, leading scorer Kyle Kuzma did not have his best stretch of basketball. It’s a trend that dates back to January, when Kuzma shot 43.3 percent, a career-low mark thus far.
To many, the simple explanation would be fatigue. However, Kuzma maintains that’s not an issue. “It’s just a mindset. I need to get back to trying to score a little bit more, playing my game, and having that mentality,” Kuzma said of his struggles.
“Shots haven’t necessarily been falling. I’m still confident in my abilities. I just had a rough little patch of games, it happens.”
Although Kuzma has struggled of late to score, he’s continued to impact the game in other facets. “I thought he did some nice things for us defensively,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said of his rookie’s play on the recent road trip.
“I thought he did a nice job of trying to do what we’re asking as far as being a facilitator on offense as well as a scorer. We’re asking him to play a bigger role on the offense. He’s too good of a player to just be a scorer, so I want him playmaking, I want him making the extra pass.
“While he’s doing that, he’s obviously less aggressive scoring the ball. There’s a fine line of finding out when to stay aggressive, when to attack that rim, and when to make the pass. Because of that, that’s why his free-throw numbers will be down.”
In Walton’s estimation, Kuzma’s slump is also a byproduct of his spotlight growing. “When you have success, now all the scouting reports treat you differently. A lot of times teams aren’t leaving him now on that weak side,” Walton said.
“They’re staying home on him, they’re putting better defenders on him. So they’re doing some things differently. It’s the way it works in the NBA.”
Mindful of his struggles on offense, Kuzma is focused on still making an impact and ensuring he continues to receive playing time. “If my shot is not falling, I have to try something else to stay on the floor,” Kuzma said.
“Focusing on defense has really helped me improve on-ball and off-ball coverages. I’ve definitely improved since the beginning of the season.
“I’m doing well defensively. I need to get back to my scoring ways, for sure. Haven’t really been looking for my shot too much. Getting to the line would definitely help. I haven’t necessarily been as aggressive as I have been in the past. I think that’s one of the things that would help me.”
Kuzma scored 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting, and had four rebounds in Tuesday’s win against the Phoenix Suns.
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