At the end of each week, The Ringer’s ace blog team will appoint a special counsel to determine which person(s) in the NBA world rose above the rest. This week’s winner is … Kuuuuzmania.
The NBA is dictated by its star players, but it’s the cult heroes who make it special. Dion Waiters. JaVale McGee. J.R. Smith. Sure, they might not be the guys making All-Star Games, but their personalities keep things exciting, and their imperfections make things feel more human.
Which brings us to Kyle Kuzma, who has basically founded and fully staffed his own cult before even playing a single second of regular-season basketball. After scoring 23 points in the Lakers’ preseason game Monday, every single reporter gravitated toward the rookie like he was Kobe Bryant.
Two days later, near Anaheim, the Lakers were run out of the Citizens Business Bank Arena by the Nuggets, but Kuzma again shined. Without Lonzo Ball in the lineup, it was all about Kooz.
Sure, it’s just preseason basketball. But Kuzma, the 27th overall pick—the one the Lakers obtained in the trade that sent D’Angelo Russell, once the future of the team, to Brooklyn—has flashed the sort of skill that could lead him to being a running mate for Ball for some time. He has a consistent shot (66 percent from the field in preseason, 36 percent from 3) and flashed some athletic moves. Even if he flames out when the games get real, we’ll always have Kuzmania.
Runner-up: Milos Teodosic
Speaking of beloved cult figures, L.A.’s other team has one of their own in 30-year-old Teodosic. The Serbian “rookie” dazzled insomniacs in the Clippers’ late-Tuesday-night game in Hawaii against the Raptors.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but this is the good stuff, Clippers pic.twitter.com/2auUyJgBSz— Paolo Uggetti (@PaoloUggetti) October 4, 2017
Teodosic went behind the back with ease, resurrected Lob City with picture-perfect dimes to a soaring DeAndre Jordan, and used a granny-style, bowling-ball lob pass 85 feet down the court that hit his teammate in stride.
I thought that pass from last night looked familiar, Pistol Milos! pic.twitter.com/PgN3HeeA56— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) October 5, 2017
Trust the Milos touch.
The Clippers are fun again (at least for now). And Teodosic is an integral part of that. Join me in prayer as we ask that Doc Rivers not start Austin Rivers over him.
Honorable Mention: The All-Star Game
The NBA took a big step toward being more fun this week by tweaking the previously very boring All-Star Game. Starting this season, two team captains (i.e., the top two vote-getters among fans, players, and media) will pick teams from the All-Star pool. I, for one, can’t wait until free-agent decisions are made on the basis of a player picking one over another.
An earlier version of this story misdescribed the location of Citizens Business Bank Park. It is near Anaheim, not in the city.