Basketball: Kuzma gets 3-year, US$40M extension with Lakers

LOS ANGELES: Forward Kyle Kuzma has agreed to a three-year, US$40 million extension to remain with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, a person familiar with the deal said Sunday (Dec 20).

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Lakers didn’t disclose the terms of the deal in their announcement of an extension. ESPN first reported the terms of Kuzma’s rookie contract extension, which begins in 2021 and includes a player option for the 2023-24 season.

Kuzma has been a key component of the Lakers’ core for three seasons since the team acquired him in a draft-day trade in 2017.

“It is especially gratifying for our Lakers franchise to draft, develop and now sign one of our own to a contract extension,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Kyle has shown tremendous growth over the last three years, and played a crucial role on last season’s championship team.”

Kuzma made the All-NBA rookie first team in 2018, and the smooth scorer averaged a career-best 18.7 points in his second pro season after the arrival of LeBron James.

When Anthony Davis and several veteran additions transformed the Lakers into title contenders last season, Kuzma transitioned into a supporting role as a reserve scorer and a wing defender. His scoring average and shooting percentage declined, but he worked on improving his defense and playmaking.

Despite his decline in numbers, Kuzma is a valuable component for the defending champs because of his versatility and capability of providing quick offense. James and Davis have mentored Kuzma on defense as well, and Kuzma is expected to compete for a starting job and more minutes this season.

The Lakers begin defense of their 16th NBA championship on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The champs will be pressed hard against the salary cap for the foreseeable future, so their ability to re-sign their own players is crucial. Kuzma also has significant value as a potential trade component at this salary if the Lakers and Kuzma decide to break up in the future.

The Lakers locked down a significant portion of their core during the short offseason after their triumph in the Florida bubble. Davis and James agreed to lucrative deals that will keep them together for three more seasons, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got a three-year deal worth more than US$39 million.

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Anthony Davis’ high-five rejected, Kyle Kuzma, Miami win, game 3 over Lakers

Sport can bring with it highs and lows but also spectacular moments of comedy gold, such as what happened to LA Lakers superstar Anthony Davis.

The star has put together a Finals MVP calibre performance so far over overshadowing superstar LeBron James.

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He was instrumental in establishing a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals for the Lakers and it showed with an off night in game three leading to Miami’s first win of the series.

Scoring just 15 points, five rebounds and three assists — as well as dishing five turnovers — it was an off night for the 208cm 27-year-old.

But while his form has been supreme, Anthony Davis had a moment in game three he’d like to forget.

RELATED: LeBron storms off before final buzzer

It was early in the second quarter and Davis was on the bench having picked up two early fouls. His young teammate Kyle Kuzma pulled off a great driving hook shot to earn an and-1 attempt having drawn a foul on the play as well as scoring.

The Lakers bench went straight up with Davis the first man there but Kuzma brushed straight past, brutally leaving him hanging.

While the commentators went back and watched a replay, they were willing to continue without comment but 17-year NBA player and former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson wouldn’t let it pass without comment.

“Hang on Mike, you just ignored Kuzma left Anthony Davis hanging after the and-1. That‘s Anthony Davis, you make sure he get that,” the ESPN commentator said.

Potentially it was some payback after Kuzma drove into the paint and completely lost control of the ball, before being left on the hardwood by Davis and James in game two.

Hilariously, former Lakers star Josh Hart, who was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, sent a sympathetic tweet in support of Davis.

“Ahhh held it too long after … got to play it off quicker,” Hart tweeted.

Hart is an expert at being left hanging with a hilarious highlight reel of snubs.

The series is now locked at 2-1 after the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler went mental with 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a crazy display.

It makes him only the sixth man in NBA Finals history to record a triple-double, joining LeBron James (x2), James Worthy and Jerry West. And also makes him only the third player in NBA Finals history to record a 40-point triple-double, joining James and West.

Making his unstoppable day out even more historic, Butler became the first player to record at least 32 points and 12 assists in an NBA Finals game since Michael Jordan did so way back in 1991.

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