SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – How much do Utah fans love Kyle Kuzma? Well, they’re willing to overlook the fact that he’s a Los Angeles Laker.
“Obviously, Utah and the Lakers got some stuff going on,” said the former Utes basketball star before the Lakers took on the Jazz Friday night. “But the community, they’ve kind of adopted me coming in here. I was here for four years and loved every minute of it. People seem to embrace me here, so it’s an awesome feeling.”
Kuzma, who left Utah after his junior season, took a lot of people by surprise in his rookie season. But this year he’s been even better, averaging 19 points and 6 rebounds per game, second in scoring on the team behind only LeBron James.
But Kuzma isn’t sneaking up on teams this year.
“The biggest adjustment is people kind of scout you,” Kuzma said. “They know who you are, playing a whole NBA season and it kind of gets tougher to get open looks and scores. But it’s all about the adjustment.”
“His biggest improvement has been on defense,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “He’s made some big strides defensively for us. We’re able to put him on different people now, and we feel confident that he’s going to get the job done for us.”
On Wednesday against Detroit, Kuzma scored a career-high 41 points in just 3 quarters of action.
“That was a pretty special game for me,” Kuzma said. “To do it in three quarters is pretty awesome and hopefully I can do it again soon.”
Kuzma said his good friend Donovan Mitchell called him after the game, but Kuzma wasn’t ready to boast.
“He’s got more 40-balls than me, so I’m not going to discuss that with him,” Kuzma said with a smile.
Kuzma is still tight with his former Utes teammates, including San Antonio center Jakob Poeltl, who somehow didn’t score a single point in the Spurs 154-point performance Thursday night.
“He didn’t score at all?” Kuzma said increduously. “That’s disrespectful, that’s crazy. I’m going to have to ask him about that now.”