Lakers News: Kyle Kuzma Talks Role Alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2019

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) battle for position under the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

With Anthony Davis making his desire to play the 4 public, some have speculated Kyle Kuzma's best role with the Los Angeles Lakers could be leading their second unit next season.

Kuzma doesn't seem to mind. The third-year forward spoke to Shams Charania of The Athletic, saying he would not have a problem with a bench role: 

"Bench, whatever, I'm still going to get my game off regardless. My past two years, I've come off the bench every single year. I just proved myself and made it known that I'm a player. A coach's job is always to put the best players on the court, and that's what I've showed the past two years.

"I've started the year coming off the bench, and just prove myself. I'm always going to find my way no matter who's on the court. I think every time I step on the court, I'm one of the better players on the floor. For me that's always been my mentality. I'm never worried about things that I can't control.

"My mindset develops every single day being around guys, having a relationship with LeBron. The gives me more confidence, the wisdom that he gives. Being around Magic Johnson and Kobe. Everybody. It grows and grows, matures and creates that mindset that defines you."

Kuzma started 68 of 70 regular-season games last season, averaging 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 45.6 percent shooting. He's the final remaining piece of the Lakers' half-decade rebuilding effort, with the team having jettisoned D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, among others, over the last couple of years. Ball, Hart and Ingram were part of the package sent to the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis.

The Lakers struck out in landing a third star, watching Kawhi Leonard move in across the hall with the Clippers. While they quickly pivoted with the signings of Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Avery Bradley and others, missing out on Leonard quickly thrust Kuzma into that third-star role.

Kuzma added:

"My motivation is there to be that third guy for the simple fact that playing with LeBron, with AD, I got high dreams for myself to do some pretty special things in my career. So that's motivation in itself. It's a testament to my work ethic and laying down the groundwork for my past two years being in the league.

"From an individual standpoint, I have to focus on myself. I've had a chip on my shoulder my entire career, so I'm ready just from that standpoint. It won't change."

The Lakers' projected starting lineup has three guarantees—James, Davis and Green—then questions for coach Frank Vogel. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported in early July the team plans to play LeBron at point guard, a move that would seemingly open up Kuzma to play the 3.

However, the Lakers aren't going to have James chasing around opposing point guards; an ultra-big lineup with Kuzma at the 3 and Cousins/JaVale McGee at the 5 would leave Green to defend opposing point guards at age 32 during the regular season. The Lakers may be better off starting Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the two "guard" spots from a defensive perspective, with James playing the 1 on the offensive end.

Staggering minutes between the three stars will also allow Kuzma to play alongside James or Davis when one sits. If he winds up in a bench role, he will be the most important reserve in basketball next season.