Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma thinks Lakers need to ‘play as a team’ moving forward

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma recently went on the record saying the team needs to play together the rest of the year.

The Los Angeles Lakers have had a mighty impressive season thus far. As of when this was written, the Lakers currently sit atop the Western Conference with a record of 40-12. The team has already managed to win more games than they did all of last season (37).

Certainly, it helps that the purple and gold boast one of the strongest average point differentials in the league. In that department, the Laker are sitting pretty at +7.1 as of when this was recorded.

Of course, it is likewise nice when you have arguably two of the best five players in basketball in terms of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Both players will be participating in Sunday evening’s All-Star Game.

Another reason for the team’s success has been due to their almost unfair amount of length and strength. Along with the aforementioned, the Lakers also have defensive stoppers down low in Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. Having guys like that has definitely caused the opposition to think carefully before driving into the paint.

While much more could be said about the group, one thing is undeniable. This team is akin to a band of brothers. During certain timeouts even, it is not to hard to decipher how well everyone gets along.

For example, just the other night against Golden State, James was spotlighted at one point executing various creative handshakes with his teammates. It sounds like such a frivolous detail to focus on, but it shows that there is no bad blood whatsoever.

Although the chemistry is there, Los Angeles has not been at the top of their game of late. Their consistency has not been too great and they seem to be playing in spurts.

The recent matchup against Golden State says enough. Albeit the Lakers won at the end of the day, it was an uglier contest. The Lakers were ahead by over 20 points at one juncture, only to make things interesting in the final stanza.

The ballclub allowed a depleted Warriors team to crawl back into the game, forcing AD and James to reenter the game. Neither should have occurred.

Needless to say, the 2019-20 version of the Warriors is not of the variety folks have seen in prior seasons. Thus, the fact that they made the Lakers sweat a little bit was of some concern.

Frankly, games like this are nothing new for the purple and gold. There have been various times this season where L.A. is able to establish a sizable lead. However, the team has not always been adept at sustaining and building upon the leads they create.

Forward Kyle Kuzma conversed with the media following the win up north. Per transcription from Matt Peralta of Lakers Nation (originally via Spectrum SportsNet), Kuzma revealed what the Lakers can do a better job at in the time to come.

"“We just got tighten the ship up. Plain and simple. We gotta be able to be on a string defensively, not turn the ball over like we did today, and just play as a team. That’s the biggest thing. Just be a team. Stats don’t matter individually for us and for us, we just wanna continue to keep chopping wood and put those building blocks together.”"

In the same interview, Kuzma was also real enough to admit that it can be easy to get “complacent” at times. Certainly, it explains what happened on Saturday night.

Understandably, this is a tough stage of the season right before the All-Star break and some guys naturally want to enjoy a brief hiatus. However, the squad cannot afford to look too far ahead yet and get distracted.

Regardless of the reason, Kuzma is correct in saying the team must tighten some screws moving forward. The team cannot continue the trend they are currently amid.

Sure, it is nice that L.A. continued its record winning streak on the road against Western Conference teams on Saturday. In spite of that, a team with championship hopes needs to begin establishing a stronger sense of urgency. There is no room for the complacency Kuzma alluded to.

From this point onward, the Lakers must make a conscious effort to make every possession count. They cannot play as if they are a pair of youngsters enjoying a ride on a seesaw.

Most importantly, championship teams are known for one of the aspects “Kuz” referenced: their defense. While the Lakers’ interior “D” has been rock solid for the most part, the team defense has been sporadic.

To be perfectly candid, Kuzma deserves a share of the blame here. While everyone understands he what he can do offensively, his defensive intensity is sometimes another story.

On that note, it would be wise if the Michigan native took his own words to heart. Indeed, this is not a game centered around individuals as Kuzma indicated. Despite that, if guys like “Kuz” can elevate their defensive effort, it will subsequently elevate the team to another level.

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Per what was said earlier, the Lakers still hold the No. 1 seed in the West. Even supposing that truth, the team can certainly make tweaks in the games that lie ahead. If they do so, the waters the Lakers’ ship is riding on will become smooth as silk.