Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma proved he is THAT guy

Los Angeles Lakers Kyle Kuzma (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers Kyle Kuzma (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma proved that he is THAT guy in Monday’s win versus Denver.

In Kyle Kuzma’s rookie season he began to take over at the end of a game in Staples Center, which prompted Los Angeles Lakers commentator Bill McDonald to proclaim, “I remember another Laker who used to take over games with clutch shots at the end.”

That Laker was none other than the late, great Kobe Bryant and while Kobe was known for cold calling, Kuzma did the same by cold calling Kobe, which led to Kobe inviting him for dinner.

Kobe admittedly admired Kuzma’s curiosity as it reminded Kobe of how he approached the pursuit of excellence in his youth. That curiosity and audacity to call the greatest Laker of them all showed that Kuzma was preparing to become THAT guy.

When Kobe was asked what advice he gave Kuzma at that dinner in an interview by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard, Kobe responded,

"“So teams say O.K., I know Kyle likes to do this.  All right, that’s great, that’s awesome.  Now stop it.  Now a team makes you do something else, and you have a counter to that predictable move, and when they cut off that counter, you have a counter to that counter.  But first, you have to be predictable, because it not only gets you a sense of stability, night in and night out, but it also gets your teammates a sense of stability.  Familiarity is extremely important”."

Although delivered in a complex manner, Kobe’s message was clear: Consistent evolution and adaptation of one’s practice fuels greatness.

Fast forward to August 10th, 2020 and the rest of the world is starting to take notice that Kyle Kuzma is ready to fill the shoes he has so prominently foreshadowed filling to become THAT guy.

On this night inside the NBA’s Disney World Bubble amidst a global pandemic, Kyle Kuzma showed his ability to adapt and change his game. It would have been easy to use the longest break from basketball in NBA history to chill out, but instead, Kuzma constantly worked on his game between the NBA’s stoppage in March and the league’s triumphant return.

There have been flourishes of Kuz’s improvement, but this game against the Denver Nuggets was the culmination of his growth thus far.

Kuzma’s defense has greatly improved, which led to LeBron James pointing this out after Kuz’s performance against the Nuggets.

However, Kyle Kuzma’s defensive improvement was on full display when the Lakers faced off in Disney Bubble against the Houston Rockets as Kuzma made both an acrobatic contortionist, body twisting, 180 spin-around block in the same game that he made an emphatic block on arguably the league’s greatest offensive player today: James Harden.

In Kuzma’s game against the Nuggets, not only was his improved defense on display but an offensive repertoire that would make The Black Mamba proud. Kuz was able to dribble around defenders with ease, making reverse layups and breakaway finger-roll layups like it was no big deal.

Kuz threw two incredible lobs to Anthony Davis for spectacular finishes, showing off his improved passing and basketball IQ with some incredible alley-oops. Right near the end of the third quarter, Kuz jumped from right near the free-throw line for one of the most ferocious dunks of his young career as he threw it down with two hands so viciously that the force knocked him down at the dunk’s conclusion.

Finally, it was a tie game with 4.5 seconds left. LeBron James inbounded the ball to Anthony Davis, who protected the ball on the right wing until Kuzma curled around him using expert footwork to quickly get himself behind the three-point line.

Denver Nuggets rising star Bol Bol extended for the block as Kuzma was about to shoot with Bol’s menacing 7’8 wingspan coming right at him. Kuzma launched a high-arcing three-pointer that went right through the net to win the game after shooting over the massive outstretched arms of Bol Bol.

In the postgame press conference when Kuzma was asked if he had any doubt seeing a defender like Bol Bol coming at him, Kuzma responded by saying, “I think Jesus could be in front of me, and I’m probably still shooting”.

This quote was very reminiscent of the type of bravado and confidence that Kobe Bryant exuded throughout his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Speaking of Kobe, Kuzma’s potential is seemingly unlimited as he essentially plays with Kobe’s skill set while being the height of LeBron James.

There was a reason that out of all the young players, including All-Star Brandon Ingram, overhyped (but certainly a capable NBA player) Lonzo Ball and exceptional role player Josh Hart, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to keep Kyle Kuzma in their massive trade for Anthony Davis.

That’s because Kuzma carries on The Mamba Mentality that Kobe may have helped him develop, but that you simply can’t teach. Kuzma genuinely enjoys the process of constantly improving and now the whole world is beginning to see it as Kyle Kuzma is ready to complete the creation of a big three with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Next. 4 lessons in last-second win over Denver. dark

The Los Angeles Lakers are primed to win their 17th championship in franchise history as long as Kuzma’s excellence is here to stay as he truly evolves into THAT guy.