During the NBA hiatus, Kyle Kuzma spent a lot of time alone shooting.
He went to different parks and gyms around the city while the Lakers' training facility was closed and shot around until he perceived little adjustments that he needed to make.
"I made a few, a few tweaks," Kuzma said after the Lakers' scrimmage against the Orlando Magic on Saturday. "Nothing crazy. But a few just minor things that really helped me out."
Those small changes appear to have made a big impact.
Kuzma had 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting -- including making five of his seven three-point attempts -- in 30 minutes in the Lakers' 119-112 win on Saturday.
The 25-year-old took open three-pointers, aggressively penetrated past defenders for step-back jumpers and drove to the basket.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he's seen a notable change in Kuzma since the team arrived at Walt Disney World in Orlando on July 9 for the resumed NBA season.
"What he did today, he did all through our restart training camp so to speak," Vogel said. "I’m just really excited about what the restart is going to look like for him."
Kuzma struggled with injuries this season, missing training camp and the first four games of the season after suffering a stress reaction in his left foot during USA Basketball training camp last summer. He then missed another five games after sustaining a sprained left ankle in December.
Kuzma acknowledged that initial setback was very costly for him, adding that having the last four months off after the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11 helped turn things around for him.
"After USA, I couldn’t be on the court for two, two and a half months," he said. "Just sit at home, shoot from a chair. So I wasn’t really able to play right away. Especially lifting weights, I couldn’t really bear any weights lower body-wise to get ready for the season. So past four months, it’s been good for me getting in the gym and lifting heavy and getting ready, having a full training camp definitely helped."
Kuzma struggled with inconsistency this season, but showed glimmers of excellence, such as when he scored a season-high 36 points against Oklahoma City on Jan. 11 while superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis were out.
Vogel said he expects to see more of that from Kuzma now that he's fully healthy.
"After starting the regular season in a different role with injuries, not playing in rhythm, just battling some of those things, to [having] a fresh mindset, being healthy and a second training camp so to speak, really seems to have benefitted him," Vogel said. "We saw him play exceptional tonight and I just think that’s going to be a huge piece for us going into the playoffs."
Vogel said the Lakers have worked with Kuzma this season on making smart decisions, emphasizing that scoring is secondary to making the appropriate move.
Midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Kuzma made a crosscourt pass to an open Kentavious Caldwell-Pope while he was being tightly guarded by the Magic's Vic Law. Caldwell-Pope responded by making a three-pointer.
Vogel said Kuzma, who turned 25 on Friday, has also shown growth in his maturity.
"He had a scrimmage, intrasquad scrimmage about a week ago, where he had four or five great passes in a row and I came over and I said, ‘I’m not going to tell you, great job passing the ball,' I’m going to come over and tell you, 'Great job reading the defense,'" Vogel said. "That’s all we want him to do and he’s been doing a great job with it."
For Kuzma, having extended time off to recalibrate both mentally and physically was rejuvenating for the backup small forward.
During that period, he was able to adjust more than just his shot.
"I just been in the league long enough to know what I need to fix, and just a lot of self-reflection," Kuzma said. "Just little things that help my confidence."