Lillard, Kuzma Shine In Games Before All-Star Break
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In between the trade deadline last Thursday and the final games before the All-Star break, NBA stars with connections to the Beehive State shined on the floor.
Kyle Kuzma was brought up over and over again in trade discussions and rumors as the Los Angeles Lakers tried to broker a deal for Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans. It didn’t happen and Kuzma remained a Laker and played extremely well for them this last week.
Delon Wright was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and started the process of learning a new team.
Former Weber State great Damian Lillard had some big time performances before the All-Star break, where he will play in his fourth All-Star Game.
Here’s how former local stars performed his last week in the NBA:
Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers (28-29)
After having his name mentioned and then unmentioned in trade rumors all last week, “Kuz” remained in a Lakers uniform.
The former Ute swingman had a fantastic week individually in what was an up and down week for his team.
The Lakers defeated the Celtics on the road on Thursday. Kuzma had 25 points with five 3-pointers made in the narrow 1-point victory.
He followed that strong performance with one of his best of the season in a loss to the Sixers on Monday. In that 23-point blowout loss, Kuzma was the best Laker on the floor with 39 points with another five made 3-pointers.
On the heels of that loss, the Lakers lost another road game on Tuesday, this time to the lowly Atlanta Hawks. Kuzma put up 19 points in that downer game for the LeBron-led Lakers.
NEXT UP: Kuzma will next take the hardwood during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. He will play for the U.S. squad in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday. Then on Saturday, he’ll compete in the Skills Challenge.
Jakob Poeltl – San Antonio Spurs (33-26)
The Spurs snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over Memphis on Tuesday, but Poeltl didn’t play much a role in that victory.
In losses to Portland and Utah, the Austrian native turned in similar box scores, putting up eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Against Utah on Saturday, the big man got the start against the Jazz, making only his eighth start of the season for the Spurs.
His play has impressed his not-so-easily-impressed head coach Gregg Popovich, who told the press in Utah that Poeltl just needs more time on the floor.
“He’s someone who needs playing time,” Popovich said before Sunday’s game. “The more he plays, the more comfortable and confident he’s going to be.”
NEXT UP: Poeltl will be enjoying time off during the All-Star Break.
Delon Wright – Memphis Grizzlies (23-35)
Wright was involved in a trade deadline deal between the Raptors and Grizzlies in exchange for longtime Memphis icon Marc Gasol.
The former Ute point guard made his debut for the Grizzlies on Saturday and logged 23 minutes in the win over the New Orleans Pelicans. He scored seven points on 3-for-7 shooting.
After his first practice with his new team, he told the media about the process of acclimating to a new team.
“We’re learning, we’re figuring each other out. It’s not like I’m coming in and trying to step on anybody’s toes,” said Wright.
He made his first start for his new team on Tuesday against Poeltl and the Spurs and logged four points in 34 minutes.
NEXT UP: Wright will also be enjoying the time off during the All-Star Break.
Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers (33-23)
Named an All-Star for the fourth time and drafted to Team LeBron for the All-Star Game, Lillard capped off the regular season action before the All-Star Break with some strong performances.
In the Trail Blazers’ win over the Spurs on Thursday, Lillard poured in 24 points on 50 percent shooting.
On Sunday, in a narrow 1-point loss to the Mavericks, “Dame” dropped 30 points with six 3-pointers made.
In the Blazers final game before the All-Star Break, the former Wildcat great had 31 points while making an impressive 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. Despite his efforts, the Blazers lost to the Thunder.
NEXT UP: Lillard will be participating in the 3-Point Contest during All-Star Saturday Night and then will be suiting up for the big game on Sunday.
Frank Jackson – New Orleans Pelicans (25-33)
Amid all the turmoil that surrounds his team with the Anthony Davis saga, Jackson continued to find more playing time for the Pelicans.
He made starts in two of three games this week. Starting against the Timberwolves on Friday, Jackson turned in four points in 21 minutes of action.
Jackson also got the start against Wright and the Grizzlies and contributed six points
He came off the bench in a 30-point blowout loss to the Magic and had six points again.
NEXT UP: The former Lone Peak star will be relaxing with time off due to the All-Star Break.