Kyle Kuzma

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Thon Maker, all 7’1″ of him, sat in economy class to get flight going

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If you are six-foot or taller, economy class on a modern airline feels cramped. But at least the airlines make up for it with a delicious full meal a bag of peanuts and a free movie.

Can you imagine a 7’1″ guy in economy?

The Bucks’ Thon Maker did it on a recent United flight and the passenger next to him Paul Kuzma posted about it on Facebook (hat tip to onmilwaukee.com).

Well, a missed #United flight found me on a rebooked one. After ending up in an upgraded Economy Plus (yay!) middle seat (not so yay!), volunteers were asked one by one, row by row, if one would relocate to the last row of the plane, middle seat….

My heart leapt again when I came to the last row and BOTH the middle AND aisle seats were open! I stowed my gear in the middle seat area but sat in the aisle seat, hoping.

Alas, it was too good to be true! Moments later, a 7’1″ tall young man who could not even stand completely straight in the aisle of the plane made his way our direction. My heart sunk, not for me, but for him! I saw him emerge from an Economy Plus window seat!

I told him I was so sorry, knowing this would be uncomfortable for him. He nonchalantly said it was worth it to get this delayed flight going. He had practice to attend in the morning and had a 2+ hour drive to get where he was headed after landing….

I had to ask how in the world he ended up in the last row. He also had missed a flight and was rebooked on this one. He was assigned his original FIRST CLASS seat. He had settled in there when a flight attendant told him the person who had paid for that seat on THIS flight had shown up, albeit very late. They had to move him to Economy Plus.

Once there for a while, his story mirrors mine. Requests were being made for someone to move to the last row and no one was volunteering. So he volunteered, wanting the flight to begin.

He couldn’t even fit his knees into the Economy seat! Every time the snack cart came by or someone had to use the restroom, he had to get up and move out of their way.

The entire flight, there was not a hint of resentment in his voice. He was even happy to allow me a picture with him and an autograph. Class act, Thon!

Somewhere a cranky old NBA player is saying “we always used to have to fly commercial…” and sorry old man, but that doesn’t make it easy or right. There’s a reason NBA teams moved away from that (and it wasn’t to save money).

Good on Maker for being willing to sacrifice when plenty of other normal-sized people couldn’t be bothered.

And if the name Kuzma is familiar, the author says his is the second cousin once removed of the Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Lakers win Summer League championship behind 30 points from Kyle Kuzma

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While everyone has been buzzing about Lonzo Ball at the Las Vegas NBA Summer League — and with good reason, he earned that MVP award — people around the league were noticing Kyle Kuzma.

Kuzma made it to the All-NBA Summer League second team, then in the championship game Monday night took over and dropped 30 points and 10 rebounds to lift the Lakers past the Portland Trail Blazers 110-98.

Summer League titles don’t mean much of anything (Chicago won last season), but for a Lakers organization under new management and looking to bring hope to a fan base that has seen the worst four-year run in franchise history, this win comes at a great time. As did the fact the Ball looked like a guy who might become a cornerstone for the Lakers going forward.

Kuzma was the Lakers’ first round pick at No. 27 this past draft, a power forward out of Utah. Kuzma has a game built for glorified pickup games of Summer League — he is athletic with a versatile offensive game, and he thrives in transition, and his jumper was falling in Vegas. Whether he can bring that to the regular season, and defend well enough to stay on the court against NBA players, remains to be seen. But Kuzma made his case for consideration in Las Vegas — his style of play is what Luke Walton wants in a power forward.

The Lakers also had Matt Thomas shoot 5-of-5 from three on his way to 23 points.

Portland got 25 points from big man Caleb Swanigan, the first-round pick out of Purdue whose energetic and athletic game translated well to Summer League (much like Kuzma’s game did). He was an All-NBA Summer League First Team player, and looked it in the title game. Jake Layman added 21 points for Portland.

The Blazers had a strong Summer League, not just because of the finish but because of the play of Swanigan, who looks like he could get minutes in the fall (and ease the pain of Collins needing at least one season to develop).

Lakers’ Lonzo Ball named NBA Summer League MVP

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Lonzo Ball electrified the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

He filled the building with Lakers fans who came out to see the guy hyped as a franchise changer. He then showed the hype about his game IQ and passing skills were spot on — he led the Summer League in assists at 9.3 a game. The numbers don’t do justice to what he did for that Lakers squad that made it all the way to the Summer League championship game (which he will sit out with a calf strain) — his passing infected the other players as they ran the court and moved off the ball with real energy. He changed the dynamic of the team, putting up 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game — he had two triple-doubles in Las Vegas.

All that earned him the Summer League MVP award, it was announced Monday. It was a good call.

Ball needs to get his shot to fall consistently, and it’s going to be hard to pull off some of the passes he made in Las Vegas against smart and long NBA defenders, but if he can have the cultural change on the Lakers team that he did in Summer League the franchise is headed in the right direction.

Being named MVP is a good sign, although like with everything Summer League be careful about reading too much into this honor. Look at its history. Damian Lillard shared the award with Josh Selby back in 2012, and since then the MVPs have been Jonas Valančiūnas, Glen Rice Jr., Kyle Anderson, and Tyus Jones.

The NBA also announced the All-NBA Summer League Teams on Monday.

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League First Team
Lonzo Ball (LAL)
John Collins (ATL)
Josh Jackson (PHX)
Dennis Smith Jr. (DAL)
Caleb Swanigan (POR)

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team
Cheick Diallo (NOP)
Bryn Forbes (SAS)
Kyle Kuzma (LAL)
Wayne Selden Jr. (MEM)
Jayson Tatum (BOS)