Kyle Kuzma was the last player to leave USA Basketball before the final, 12-man roster was finalized on Saturday, returning home to Los Angeles to focus on getting healthy following ankle soreness so that he’s ready to go when the Lakers begin their training camp next month.
On Sunday, Kuzma made his first comments since his departure from Australia, and he tweeted that while not playing for Team USA is disappointing, he had his real job to prepare for: This was the right call for Kuzma, who the Lakers will need at 100 percent if they’re going to reach their fullest potential as a team this season.
DeMarcus Cousins and his theoretically high upside being sidelined for the year with a torn ACL minimized the Lakers’ margins for error even further, making a leap from Kuzma that would have previously just been nice now nearly a necessity for the team if it wants to contend for the title.
Kuzma taking a leap would have been tougher if he had pushed forward on an ankle injury just to play for Team USA in August and September, minimizing the break he’d get to rest it before the Lakers begin camp and travel to China for the preseason.
At 24 years old, it’s totally possible his body could have borne that burden and still recovered, but given what the NBA has learned about the value of load management over the last several seasons, there is little reason for Kuzma to test that theory.
Instead, Kuzma now gets nearly a month to make sure that his ankle is right before the Lakers first officially gather for the 2018-19 campaign, and a few weeks before LeBron James brings the team together for their unofficial, players-only camp in Las Vegas.
It sounds like Kuzma plans on taking advantage of that time, and making sure he’s fully ready to go for the season.