Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma is thrilled that ‘dark days’ are a thing of the past

(Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images) /

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has been through it all as a member of the team.

After finishing off the Denver Nuggets Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers booked their ticket to the promised land for the first time in a decade. Especially by the Lakers’ lofty standards, ten years is a really, really long time.

In fact, prior to this season, the Lakers did not even make it to the postseason for a half dozen consecutive seasons. During that terrible stretch, there even came a season where the team literally finished dead last in the Western Conference. Things were that bad at one point.

While most folks do not like to remember those rough patches, it was the harsh, but true reality of this franchise for quite some time. Despite their storied past, it was difficult to consider them a destination franchise when so many elite free agents opted to not become part of the squad. Without legitimate star attractions, Staples Center did not have that same glitzy feel to it.

As a result, many wondered how long it would take for the Lakers to reclaim their status as a top dog in this league. Fans understandably grew impatient and had to succumb to the fact that the Clippers were enjoying more success.

However, the tides have most certainly turned, and the Lakers are now looking like the Lakers of old. As was stated above, the 16-time champions have a chance at hanging yet another banner, while the Clippers failed to meet expectations yet again.

Thus, in spite of a year that has changed so much in this world, at least Lakers’ fans can find solace in knowing their locker roommates have not changed.

Granted it is easy to pick on the Clippers, it is reasonable to argue the Lakers kind of looked like the other L.A. team for a number of years. Lakers’ forward Kyle Kuzma understands better than most just how brutal things were in the past for the purple and gold.

While Kuzma was not with the Lakers at their absolute low, he was still with them during two losing campaigns. In his rookie season, the team finished 11th in the West with a 35-47 record. It was a nine-win improvement over the prior year, but still was not anything to be too satisfied about.

Perhaps one of the lone positives for Kyle Kuzma in 2017-18 was that he made the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He truly was a bright spot for the team that year and managed to be the team’s best newbie despite being the No. 27 pick in the draft. Certainly, Kuzma defied the odds that were stacked against him.

The Lakers did slightly better in his sophomore campaign and strung together a 37-55 record, good for 10th in the West. Nevertheless, even with the addition of superstar LeBron James, it was yet another subpar season in every sense of the word.

Sure, it is fair to point out that the Lakers were showing small signs of improvement. While that cannot be denied, the purple and gold have never been the type that like to settle for less. That has never been their style throughout their illustrious history, and never will be.

On that note, the fact the Lakers have enjoyed such a tremendous turnaround in 2019-20 is something to behold. While trading for Anthony Davis last summer sheds light on their success, the team’s rise to prominence has truly been greater their the sum of their parts.

Without a doubt, the Lakers are an extremely talented group and possess perhaps the best duo in the league. Going into the season, though, some wondered whether all of the personalities on their team would get along.

The Lakers had more new players come in this year than had remained from the 2018-19 season. On account of that factor, some folks surmised that there would naturally be some chemistry issues. To some surprise, no such thing has ever transpired and whether it is on the court or during timeouts, it is clear how well this Lakers team gets along.

Let alone their remarkable talent, the fact they have gelled so well from the onset validates why they have clinched a Finals berth.

Kuzma fully discerns that the Lakers are in an excellent position to do something special. At the same time, the Michigan native also knows how the bumpy the road has been.

According to Christian Rivas of Silver Screen & Roll, Kuzma recently acknowledged the team went through some “dark days” to get to where they now are.

"“It’s an incredible feeling,” Kuzma said. “It’s a feeling that you can’t take for granted because you never know when you’re going to get back to this. Especially for me, I’m just embracing it all. Me and Alex we’ve been here through the dark days of Lakers Nation: losing seasons and rebuilds.“To be here now in the Finals, it’s a testament to a lot of hard work from obviously us as players, and the front office for making the right decisions. I’m just super happy to be here.”"

Especially on the grounds that this is Kyle Kuzma’s first Finals appearance, one can only imagine what is running through his mind. LeBron is used to the feeling, but it is fair to assume Kuz may be experiencing some butterflies of the good variety.

As Kuzma revealed, he and teammates like Alex Caruso have dealt with some taxing seasons that were very un-Laker-like. This season has been a much different can of worms and it is good to see Kuzma is trying to soak it all in.

Nothing is ever a given in sports and making it all the way is extremely tough. Per Kuzma’s comments, making it to this level certainly requires “a lot of hard work” behind the scenes. Moreover, it demands everyone being on the same page and the sheer fact Kuz credits the team by using the pronoun “us” is demonstrative of where things stand with this group.

The mission at the beginning of this season has never wavered and the team is this close to accomplishing their ultimate ambition. All it sometimes takes is one loose bolt to make the whole project collapse, but no bolts or screws of any kind are out of place.

The Lakers are a well-oiled machine and have worked hard as a unit to get to where they are at. Per Kyle Kuzma’s comments, the 16-time champs cannot take for granted that they have made it to the Finals, though. There is still work left to be done in terms of collecting four more W’s.

Therefore, even though it is plausible to draw the conclusion the “dark days” are a thing of the past, the absolute best way to ensure that will be through the team remaining laser-focused.

The Lakers have never been fond of even Conference Finals trophies. They have always been all about winning it all in the Finals, plain and simple.

These golden opportunities are anything but guaranteed, so the Lakers will need to up the ante that much more starting Wednesday. The same can be said for Kuzma, who has been up and down in these playoffs.

If Kyle Kuzma can put together a good, consistent Finals series, though, it will likely calm down some of his naysayers. Additionally, it will make the Lakers even more dangerous than they already have been so far in the postseason.

Next. 3 keys to win the NBA Finals. dark

Here’s to hoping the Lakers will look to send a message to the Miami Heat in the near future. The Heat are no joke, but this Lakers team has been every bit as special since training camp. The “dark days” are no longer relevant, and they will become completely irrelevant if L.A. can finish the job.