MANILA, Philippines – Lonzo who?
In his first-ever career start, combo forward Kyle Kuzma, the 27th pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, just dropped 21 points and 13 rebounds in a 124-112 win against the Brooklyn Nets. With this breakout performance, the 22-year-old from the University of Utah brings his career averages to 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on a stellar 56% shooting clip.
Kuzma now holds the highest field goal percentage with at least 10 attempts per game in the loaded 2017-2018 rookie class and is also the 3rd-highest scoring rook, just behind instant Sixers star Ben Simmons (18.0) and Chicago’s Finnish unicorn Lauri Markkanen (16.6).
Despite his consistently serviceable play in the pre-season, Kuzma initially came off the bench due to the Lakers starting Larry Nance Jr over him. However, with Nance reportedly scheduled to miss around 4 to 6 weeks with an injury, Kuzma finally drew the starting job and even bumped former 7th overall pick Julius Randle to the bench. The Lakers now boast a shiny new starting lineup of Kuzma, former Nets superstar Brook Lopez, former Detroit Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, rising star Brandon Ingram and of course, the talk of the town, Lonzo Ball.
Perhaps, it was a blessing in disguise that all the attention in La La Land fell upon the shoulders of Lonzo Ball, while Kuzma just played along with little to no fanfare. While veterans like Patrick Beverley and John Wall were busy making NBA life a living hell for Ball, Kuzma in the background has gotten into a much-needed groove and is paying dividends for the Purple and Gold.
The writing was on the wall too, even before the draft. As noted by DraftExpress, “Kuzma has the physical tools, fluidity, and budding skill set to fit the role of a modern-day NBA power forward. He is light on his feet, shows excellent speed in transition, and has the athleticism to finish above the rim in space.”
Physical gifts aside, what really drives Kuzma to excel is not the future that awaits him, but the past that he’s running from. A native of Flint, Michigan before graduating from Utah with a degree in sociology, Kuzma has gone through the worst criminality and poverty the United States has to offer.
As reported by Utah-based network Deseret News, Flint “holds the nation’s highest poverty rate, based on 2016 data from the US Census Bureau, and is listed as the 9th-most violent city in America, according to recent FBI statistics.” Despite this, Flint is home for the NBA Summer League champion, as he recently rented an apartment there exclusively for his siblings.
After a tumultuous beginning to his life, he is at last living the NBA dream, and living it well. With all the stars shining bright in Hollywood, Kyle Kuzma is a budding white dwarf himself, ready to burst red-hot into NBA stardom. – Rappler.com
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