The Rock May Have Motivated Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers to Knock Off the Nuggets

The Lakers have one of the youngest teams in the entire NBA. The average age of the players on the team is just a shade under 25, and while that should offer some hope for the future to all of the Lakers fans out there, it also indicates that the majority of the Lakers players still have a lot to learn—both on and off the basketball court.

To try and help them along in life, the Lakers have set up a series of “Genius Talks” this season that have featured high-profile people coming in and talking to the team. Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, and rapper Kendrick Lamar are just a few of the celebrities who have delivered motivational speeches to the team in recent months.

On Tuesday, it was Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson’s turn to do it. He met with Lakers players, coaches, and executives and shared his story with the team in an effort to motivate them. According to the Orange County Register, The Rock spoke about overcoming adversity and disappointment during his speech to the team.

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and controlling owner/president Jeanie Buss were ecstatic to have The Rock in the building.

It looks like whatever The Rock said really lit a fire up under the Lakers, too. On Tuesday night, they took on the Nuggets, a team that had beaten them in their last two matchups, at the Staples Center. And despite blowing a double-digit lead in the first half and falling behind by 5 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Lakers rallied to knock off the Nuggets 112-103 to pull themselves back to within just five games of .500 on the season.

It’s impossible to say whether or not The Rock actually had anything to do with the performance the Lakers put forth against Denver. But after the game, Lakers head coach Luke Walton suggested The Rock’s words seemed to put a little extra fire into rookie Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma scored a team-high 26 points against the Nuggets, including 16 in the third quarter alone, despite playing with an ankle injury—and Walton told reporters The Rock’s speech may have had something to do with it.

“Maybe it was The Rock that motivated him to fight through the injury like that,” Walton said.

Kuzma didn’t say if that was actually the case. But he spoke with reporters as well and talked about how cool it was to have The Rock speak to the Lakers on Tuesday. Kuzma said that, like most people his age, he was a “big fan” of The Rock growing up, and he said he was amazed to learn The Rock is now a big fan of his as well. It seems The Rock saw the interview Kuzma did after scoring a career-high 38 points against the Rockets back in December, and he apparently told Kuzma he was impressed with it.

“He just loved my response to what I said,” Kuzma said. “He thought it was pretty cool, so that was pretty cool actually.”

The Rock may have had something to do with the Lakers playing so well against the Nuggets, but he might not deserve all of the credit. Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix met with the team this week as well. She spent time with the Lakers on Monday, and it sounds like she may have gotten the competitive juices flowing just like The Rock did. According to the Orange County Register, Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope challenged her to a race, which amused most of his teammates to no end.

“She was wearing jeans and untied Jordans and could probably still beat him in a race,” Kuzma said.

There’s no telling who the Lakers are going to bring in next as part of their “Genius Talks” series. But it’s clearly something that’s having an impact on the young team this season, and we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see other young NBA teams start adopting the same strategy in the coming seasons.

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The Lakers Might Call on Kendrick Lamar to Help Improve Their Team

On Monday night at the Staples Center, the Lakers will face the Warriors and there will be a special halftime show commemorating Kobe Bryant. The team plans to retire both jerseys he wore, No. 8 and No. 24, respectively. Since his retirement in April 2016, the Lakers have revitalized the team with a young core; among them are Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and others.

Rob Pelinka, the general manager for the Lakers, is one of the most important people in Kobe’s career. He spent 18 years as his agent before becoming the Lakers GM, and really, one of Kobe’s closest friends. Now, with Bryant away from the purple and gold, Pelinka is finding new ways to spark inspiration within the team, motivating them to reach the caliber and chemistry of past Laker squads.

It starts with talking with a few renaissance men who strive to change the world every day. In an interview with USA Today, Pelinka shared his idea of “Genius Talks.” He brings the team to people who are the absolute best in their industry in order to create an inspired culture within the Laker brand.

The first was Elon Musk, and they visited his SpaceX lab in nearby Hawthorne in October. Pelinka said:

“It was like going to the set of Ironman; just unbelievable. The players were just amazed. It was the coolest thing. One of the guys said (to Musk), 'Well we play against other teams, so how do you study your competition, or what's your way of staying No. 1?' And he said, 'My competition is irrelevant to me. If what I'm doing, I do excellently, then it doesn't matter.' And so you pick up little things like that.”

The next was Jeffrey Katzenberg, who co-founded Dreamworks and was the head of Disney studios from 1984 to 1994. The Hollywood mogul told them, according to Pelinka:

“'You know, when I was making the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, I had a mantra in my head, and it was exceed expectations.'” He said, ‘I wanted to sit in the back of the theater when the kids were watching, and I wanted them to be jumping out of their seat. I wanted to exceed their expectations.’”

A person who will undoubtedly inspire the Lakers is Kendrick Lamar, and it sounds like Pelinka may lock in the TDE rapper for an upcoming session of “Genius Talks.” Lamar's had an incredible year with the release of Damn and his seven Grammy nominations

Pelinka further explains that “Genius Talks” is meant to tap into the team's various interests to make them better people and better basketball players.

“Magic and I wanted to identify geniuses in their space. Our core belief is that more developed men make better basketball players. I think Magic, if you look at how diversified he is with his interests. Kobe, the guy studies everything under the sun. I'm reading a biography right now on Leonardo da Vinci, and he has the ultimate curiosity of all things. If he's painting a hummingbird, he wants to like take its tongue and see what it looks like so he can paint it. So geniuses in life, right, can inspire us on how to be better.”

“So once a month, we try to do that, and the reason that it, to me, is important, is it shows the way we're really trying to do things differently, and it gets back to what I said at the beginning: Support and service. How can we bring things to the guys to make them better human beings and better Lakers basketball players?”

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