The Los Angeles Lakers are relevant again.
After five straight losing seasons, the Lakers are back in the spotlight. Adding LeBron James will do that to any team, but the Lakers adding him is a huge deal. With just 35 victories last season, they didn’t come close to reaching the playoffs. Adding the king changes their outlook quite a bit heading into the 2018/19 campaign, however. Plus, keeping the likes of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma doesn’t hurt.
Speaking of Kuzma, the second-year forward isn’t having any of the criticism. After signing LeBron to a four-year deal, the Lakers then went out and handed one-year deals to Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley. That supporting cast might not scream ‘championship contender’ to you, but Kuzma believes this squad is better than what they’re getting credit for.
“We are both definitely excited about the roster and the pieces that we have,” Kuzma told ESPN on Tuesday.
In his rookie season, Kuzma put up 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He also shot 45% from the field, 36.6% from long range (on 5.6 attempts per game) and 70.7% from the free throw line. He just thinks that everyone is selling the Lakers short. On some level, it’s not hard to see why.
“And we think that a lot of people are underestimating us. It is definitely going to be fun playing with all these new guys. … A lot of people say we got a lot of different people, a lot of new people, but change can be a good thing. It is not necessarily always a bad thing. There’s a lot of teams in the NBA that need to work on their chemistry; we are just one of them.”
Kuzma does have a point about teams working on their chemistry, but the Lakers have an uphill battle here. LeBron is the king for a reason, but does he make up the 12-game gap between LA and Minnesota out west? That’s how far out of the playoff picture they finished last season. Don’t expect the Denver Nuggets to just go away either. Sure we can point to the Boston Celtics only having four players from the 2016/17 roster on their team at the start of last season, but Luke Walton is not Brad Stevens.
On the other hand, that doesn’t necessarily make Kuzma wrong. If nothing else, the Lakers should be really fun this coming season. And they might just turn into a solid playoff team in the process.