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Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma 'learning and developing' as part of Team USA

Friday 16 August 2019 11:06, UK

Kyle Kuzma speaks to the media after Team USA practice at El Segundo, California
Image: Kyle Kuzma speaks to the media after Team USA practice at El Segundo, California

Kyle Kuzma said he is learning and developing with every Team USA practice and expects those improvements to show when he returns to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Speaking after Team USA practiced at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, California, on Thursday, Kuzma was asked about being exposed to the different styles of coaching he is receiving from USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Steve Kerr.

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"[I adjust] pretty easily," he said. "I'm a fast learner. In high school I would go to multiple high school and have different coaches so I am used to that. When you are focused, you can pick on things quickly.

"[Coach Popovich and Coach Kerr] are both great basketball minds. They are championship-level competitors. 'Pop' is exactly what I expected. You see him in pre-game interviews or on-court, he's got that sarcastic [response] or the 'no-answer', something like that."

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Kuzma is expected to be part of USA Basketball's 12-man roster at the FIBA World Cup, which starts in China on August 31. The Lakers forward was asked what he has been asked to bring to the team.

"Defense and rebounding, that's going to be my calling card with this team," he said. "I think I've been showing that pretty well. I think [the coaches] have been pleased so far."

Kyle Kuzma is watched by assistant coach Steve Kerr at Team USA practice
Image: Kyle Kuzma is watched by assistant coach Steve Kerr at Team USA practice

"The biggest thing is defense, I'm getting better at it. Playing with great players every day in practice, guarding guys, getting more terminology. Usually, this time of year, you're doing one-on-one workouts but here I'm in a structured situation where I'm really learning and developing. This has been great for the whole element of my game.

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"It's a dream come true. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to [play for Team USA] growing up. I'm counting my blessings, enjoying being here and trying to get the most out of it. It has exceeded my experience by a long mile."

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Team USA are aiming for their third successive FIBA World Cup title. They have not lost a game in World Cup play since being upset by Greece in the 2006 semi-finals.

But with the US team playing without NBA superstars like James Harden, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard, rival nations like Serbia (led by Nikola Jokic), Spain and Greece (led by NBA regular season Giannis Antetokounmpo) sense an opportunity to cause a huge upset.

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Team USA are ready for the challenge, according to Kuzma. "We are going to be the hunted," he said. "That's the way it is playing USA Basketball. This country is the cream of the crop in terms of basketball so we have to realise every single night we will be the hunted and [respond] to that.

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