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.
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 great 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.