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After an impressive showing and signs of promise during the 2017-18 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers young core ultimately proved to be a selling point for LeBron James in free agency. He pointed to the group as a reason why acquiring a second All-Star wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Although James and the Lakers were excited to see how the players would complement each other, the likes of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma are again tasked with carrying the team.

James has missed the past three games since suffering a strained groin on Christmas, and it’s unclear when he may return. Additionally, Rajon Rondo is due to be out four to five weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament that was damaged by a Grade 3 sprain in his right ring finger.

While both are important to long-term success this season, Kuzma is confident in what the Lakers are capable of without James and Rondo for the time being.

“That we can do more as a young core and as a team. We’re not just one player. Just have to eliminate mistakes,” he said. “For us, it’s continue to keep getting better and better, and hit the ground running when those guys get back.”

Life without two of their leaders began on a down note as the Lakers squandered a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter of a loss at the buzzer to the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers then battled back from a deficit the following night, only to allow the Clippers to take control with a 22-0 run.

They snapped the losing streak by gaining some revenge on the Kings to close out 2018. Ingram turned in his best all-around performance of the season and Kuzma contributed 18 points, 9 rebounds and season high-tying 6 assists.

Realistic expectations for Kuzma and the Lakers while James and Rondo are out is to simply tread water in a competitive Western Conference. Anything extra would be considered a bonus and leave the team in strong position once the veterans return.

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