Kyle Kuzma on LeBron James Joining the Lakers and Working Out With Kobe Bryant
Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers will make their regular season debut on October 18 in Portland
With the 2018-2019 NBA season kicking off this week, one of the most interesting storylines to pay attention to will be the performance of the Los Angeles Lakers, who signed LeBron James over the summer.
Apart from adding veterans like Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson, the Lakers have kept their young nucleus of players in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and 23-year-old Kyle Kuzma, who says the whirlwind of change surrounding the team has been a welcome one.
“It’s been great having new guys around — change is always a good thing in my eyes,” Kuzma — who recently participated in Postmates‘ new series, “The Receipt,” and revealed his guilty pleasure since arriving in Los Angeles has been eating Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles — tells PEOPLE.
Continues Kuzma, “It’s very exciting being around these newer guys, learning from them every single day and building the chemistry. It’s super fun, it’s a good experience.”
James, 33, is entering his 16th season in the league and has become a mentor of sorts to the team’s youngest members, and Kuzma says he’s already learned a few things from the three-time NBA champion and the new veterans.
“A little bit of everything, like the film aspect, those guys always watch film,” he explains. “Those guys are students of the game, have been around the game for a lot more years than we have as young guys. [We’ve been] picking up the nuances of the game [from them].”
With any big shake-up to a franchise comes questions of chemistry — and many analysts have cast doubt around whether the Lakers would be able to gel quickly enough to make an impact during this season. But the team showed promise during their six preseason games and were able to trounce the Golden State Warriors — the reigning back-to-back champions — twice during both of their match-ups.
“Yeah, [there were] a lot of improvements,” Kuzma says of how the team has learned to work together. “The biggest thing is just the chemistry aspect, learning each other’s games. From game one to game six, I’ve seen their growth defensively, and the camaraderie that we built.”
James has faced Stephen Curry and the Warriors four straight times for the NBA championship, each while he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether the Lakers’ new squad can beat Golden State during the regular season, Kuzma remains confident about what the team can achieve heading into their first game against the Portland Trailblazers on Thursday.
“We got a lot of veterans, we got a lot of young guys that’s always a good mix to cause a little trouble. So for us, it’s gonna be really good,” he says. “Playing with veterans that can teach us the game and those extra little skills while we’re still young, and we have young legs to carry us over the top as well. It’s an overall great nucleus.”
And sometimes preparing for the future means turning to the past, and Kuzma did just that when he worked out with retired Laker legend Kobe Bryant during the summer.
“Basically it was just footwork, learning how to get to spots and scoring,” he says. “Learning how defenses react to certain things and just picking his brain like that.”
While Kuzma has received recognition from other players for his highly productive rookie season — the Warriors’ Draymond Green even stated he believes Kuzma will be the “second star” alongside James — he isn’t letting the praise get to him.
“It’s a great feeling when people recognize you, but at the same time you gotta take it with a grain of salt, continue to work so you get better, because people can change on you, thoughts can change,” he says. “But it’s a good feeling to see hard work paying off.”