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Kyle Kuzma says the Lakers want to use their play to ‘send a message’ to the organization that they want to be here long-term

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If the young Lakers don’t want to be included in trade talks, they’ll have to prove their worth. But can Kyle Kuzma and the rest of them do anything to convince they’re worth keeping around long-term?

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, stories about the Los Angeles Lakers either have to do with injuries, Magic Johnson tampering, the trade deadline and the impact it had on the roster and how the team will try to get past those distractions. At some point, it’d be nice to focus on basketball.

During an appearance on “The Official Lakers Podcast,” Kyle Kuzma spoke about the importance of figuring out how to focus on things outside of the above drama, as well as what he and his other young teammates can do to stay out of trade talks.

“They always try to tell you — your vets, coaches, people in the organization — they always try to tell you (to) ‘control what you can control.’ At the end of the day, you can’t really control if you get traded or if you’re on the block or anything, but that’s pretty much easier said than done.

“If you’ve never been in that situation that we were just in as young players... You can’t really know how you’re going to react to rumors and all this other stuff.”

It’s really telling that even if young players are trying to have themselves prepared for stuff like that, Kuzma speaks to the impact those factors have anyway. It’s really understandable when you think about it. Most these guys are living out their dream of suiting up for the Lakers, but a couple of their heroes (Magic Johnson and LeBron James) are directly linked to wanting them shipped out. Of course that would wear on them.

Kuzma also makes an interesting point about the differences between handling those rumors now versus when his coaches or other older players had to deal with them:

“I’m sure back in the day when our coaches, Brian Shaw or Luke (Walton), when they were in trade rumors it was much easier to try and get away from it. In our generation, you really can’t just because of social media and your phone. Everybody wants to talk to you about it. You may go to a restaurant and you’re gonna see it on the T.V. You can’t really escape it, and as a team, everybody was on the trading block, so obviously you’d see how it could affect the team’s morale, chemistry and just the overall mindset of the team.

These comments were made before Magic walked in and spoke to the team about dealing with trade rumors, so Kuzma saying this was by no means a response to that meeting. That said, it really speaks to how out of touch Magic sounded when he called out the media for “babying” guys whose names were publicly in trade rumors last week.

Kuzma himself pointed to a game where anyone could’ve noticed the impact trade rumors had on the team:

“I think everybody saw that versus the Pacers. Losing by 42 is obviously something that we didn’t want to do, and it’s always tough to lose the first game of a road trip, but I think after you kind of know what you’ve got on the team and everybody is on the court together (things get better).

“That Boston game, I think that was kind of the perfect game for us to get back on track and kind of send a message to the league — and the organization as well — that we all want to be here. We all want to show that we belong and that we can do this here too.”

These were really honest and telling quotes from a guy who went from being a darling of the organization to merely a trade asset last week. That had to shake Kuzma. But still, as tough as that might’ve been, he’s somewhat correct in his assessment that it’s on players to keep their own name out of trade rumors. That’s the right way to approach it, but it might not matter.

Given how desperate the Lakers became to land Anthony Davis, it’s unlikely there is anything Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram or the rest of the young core could do to stay out of those trade talks. The better they play, the more likely New Orleans asks for them in a trade. Maybe it means one fewer asset is asked for because of the value they bring, but I just can’t see Magic behaving the way he did last week and completely rethinking that stance in a few months.

It’s going to be interesting to see how all this plays out. The Lakers are getting ready for what will be a brutal stretch of schedule as they try to get into the playoffs. They have to focus if they stand a chance of making it. But the front office also hasn’t done much to earn that kind of buy-in. Let’s all hope they figure things out, or else members of the front office will find their name in rumors of their own.

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