PHOENIX • The Los Angeles Lakers had to give up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and three future first-round draft picks to land Anthony Davis in the summer, but there was one player whose trade they refused to sanction.
While the New Orleans Pelicans were desperate for Kyle Kuzma to be included in the blockbuster deal, the 16-time National Basketball Association champions were adamant about keeping him and for good reason.
The 24-year-old forward averaged 18.7 points per game last season, leaving the Lakers convinced he could form a versatile front court with Davis and LeBron James.
However, it has taken him time to get back into his groove, having returned only on Nov 1 against the Dallas Mavericks after a near three-month layoff with a foot injury.
Before Tuesday's game, he was averaging just 10.2 points per game on 39.6 per cent shooting, leading critics to question his effectiveness from the field and beyond the arc.
However, Lakers coach Frank Vogel was unconcerned, saying Kuzma was "still finding his way" with no pre-season training under his belt.
His patience paid off on Tuesday night as Kuzma "clicked" into form, draining two three-pointers in the final three minutes as the visitors bounced back from their previous defeat to score a 123-115 road victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The clutch baskets capped a season-high 23-point display in just 25 minutes, sealing a see-saw battle with the hosts at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Forward Anthony Davis' game-high points tally for the LA Lakers in their 123-115 defeat of the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. He also had 12 rebounds and four assists.
His teammates were suitably impressed.
Hailing Kuzma as "a huge piece of this puzzle", James, who had 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, said: "It was only a matter of time.
"It came at the right time, against a tough team. It was great to have the Kuz that we know he's capable of. He was very patient, took the shots that came to him."
Kuzma also claimed that his shooting woes in five previous games were down only to rustiness.
"I've been finding my rhythm all season," he said of his crucial pair of late three-pointers. "I fRead More – Source