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CHARLOTTE, USA – Kyle Kuzma admitted he was pretty bummed with his performance in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge last season. But he sure made up for it and even bagged the top plum this year.
“I played in this game last year, and I was really lackadaisical, and I didn’t want to do that again. That was one of the main reasons,” said Kuzma after leading Team USA to a 161-144 whipping of Ben Simmons and Team World on Friday, February 15 (Saturday, February 16, Manila time).
The young Los Angeles Lakers star bagged the game’s MVP award after draining a game-high 35 points on a 15-of-27 clip from the field and grabbing 6 rebounds. (READ: Kyle Kuzma, Team USA drub Team World in NBA Rising Stars)
Although thankful that he got to play in the Rising Stars game for two straight years, Kuzma hopes to build on that.
“Trying to make the All-Star Game next year. That’s the next level,” he said. “Just working hard, dedicating what I do on a daily basis to my craft, and take care of my body. I got confidence that I can one day be an All-Star in this league. That’s definitely a goal for me. You know, ever since I was a kid.”
An extra motivation for Team USA to break the two-game winning streak of Team World was the monetary reward that they would get. Each member of Team USA got $25,000 bonus for winning the game.
“I think it was the second timeout, and I broke the huddle by saying ‘Bonus! One, two, three!’ So there you go,” Kuzma said in jest.
Kuzma received 5 of the 7 possible MVP votes from a six-member panel from the media and the fans counted as one more vote. The two other votes went to Team USA teammate guard Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. – Rappler.com