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).
DeMar DeRozan did not want to be traded from the Raptors.
He will eventually warm to San Antonio and the Spurs, but for a franchise that has seen star after star push their way out of town — Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Damon Stoudamire, and on down the list — DeRozan was the one guy who embraced the city, repped it, and not only said he wanted to stay but did just that. DeRozan was all in on Toronto and loyal, and they shipped him out anyway. It may well have been the right basketball move, but it was cold. And a lot of Raptors fans were not happy about how it went down.
DeRozan, classy as always, thanked the Raptors fans in a heartfelt Instagram post.
Someday they will retire DeRozan’s jersey in Toronto. Deservedly so.
LeBron James has been up front about this before: He wants to play with his son LeBron Jr. for a couple of years in the NBA before retiring. That son, about to enter ninth grade, would graduate in 2022 — the year the NBA is expected to go back to allowing teams to draft players out of high school, and the year LeBron’s Laker contract ends.
(Does LeBron Jr. want this? Of course he’ll say publicly he does, but would you want your dad with you in the locker room and on the road with you when you’re an NBA rookie finally out of the house and able to explore life a little?)
Taking that to the next step, Twitter user @Shady00018 pieced together an NBA 2K mixtape of LeBron playing with his son. LeBron saw it and LOVED it.
We’re a long way from that, but you know LeBron wants it to happen.
Kawhi Leonard is a member of the Toronto Raptors now. There’s no way of getting around it. Even with rumors swirling about whether or not he will be happy in Canada, the truth is that we have already seen some embrace of Leonard in the six.
Likewise, DeMar DeRozan is a member of the San Antonio Spurs whether he likes it or not. Now, each have been seen for the first time in their new jerseys.
The only catch? It’s via a video game.
2K Games decided to tweet out new rendered images of both players in their respective jerseys. To be honest, I don’t think they look all that bad.
It’s going to feel a bit like a real life franchise mode of NBA 2K19 when we see these guys on the court in their new kits next season. But eventually we will get used to it, much in the way we will no doubt get used to LeBron James in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey or Tony Parker in a Charlotte Hornets jersey.
We’re going to have the matchup between the Raptors and the Spurs circled on our calendar next year. That is, if Leonard ends up playing in it. There still might be some doubts in that department.
Most of Los Angeles — and the vast majority of Lakers fans — are fired up that LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles. They see a return to glory for the franchise (well, once they get the rest of the roster right… sorry Lance Stephenson).
However, there is a segment — particularly the die-hard Kobe fans — who are having trouble assimilating to the new reality.
So when an artist did a LeBron James mural near Venice in Los Angeles recently — a really well-done tribute — it was quickly vandalized. Then eventually covered up.
This week another artist did another impressive LeBron/Lakers mural — this one with LeBron looking up at the Lakers’ legends — and once again, it was vandalized.
I’m not shocked by any of this, but it is depressing. If you’re vandalizing art, you are a cowardly buffoon.
There’s no way to really know the motivation behind the second attack, although the smart money is on it being the same as the first one — a few people think they are protecting the Lakers’ brand by not welcoming the best player on the planet to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. It’s incredibly flawed logic, but frankly flawed logic has become trendy in recent years, it can get you elected to all kinds of offices.
Credit real Lakers fans who showed up to help fix this.