I used to always go to Jazz games when I was here watching them so it was actually cool to play on the court. —Kyle Kuzma
SALT LAKE CITY — With 1:50 remaining in the third quarter Saturday night, No. 0 for the Los Angeles Lakers drilled a 3-pointer.
Instead of hearing boos from the sellout crowd at Vivint Arena, Utah Jazz fans did just the opposite.
Former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma was back in Salt Lake City.
But this time he wasn't in white and red for the Utes, he is now an NBA rookie in purple and gold.
“I used to always go to Jazz games when I was here watching them so it was actually cool to play on the court,” Kuzma said. “The arena is a little different from the last time I was here, but it was awesome for sure.”
Although the experience was fun, Kuzma’s college homecoming didn’t end with a victory, as Utah topped Los Angeles 96-81.
He entered the game averaging 14.5 points and four rebounds on 53.5 percent shooting but ended with just nine points, three assists and three boards in 22 minutes of action.
Lakers coach Luke Walton said he's most impressed with Kuzma's consistency throughout summer league, preseason and now the regular season. The team has to pick it up, though, after dropping back-to-back games to Toronto and Utah.
"His energy is always high," Walton said of Kuzma. "I know he was excited to come back here and play but he's always excited to play. If we're playing 3-on-3 after practice, he's excited to play, so it wasn't noticeably any different."
Kuzma, 22, spent three seasons at the University of Utah before being drafted by the Lakers with the 27th pick. His popular teammate Lonzo Ball was taken at No. 2.
Ball struggled with nine points, four assists and five turnovers against the Jazz but was happy to see Kuzma enjoy his time back in Utah.
“He’s back home,” Ball said. “He’s always going to play hard. Unfortunately as a team we didn’t get it done today.”
With six games under his belt, Kuzma is learning to put tough games behind him and move on to the next. Los Angeles (2-4) will host Detroit on Tuesday night.
"We've got like 75-plus games left, so it's still a lot of learning to do," Kuzma said.