Going into next season, the Los Angeles Lakers are in prime position to compete for an NBA title with Anthony Davis, LeBron James and a solid supporting cast featuring names like Danny Green, Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins.
However, things had to get pretty bad before they got as good as they are now.
During February’s NBA trade deadline, the Lakers offered nearly everyone on their roster to the New Orleans Pelicans in an effort to acquire Davis and make a run for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, they came short in their pursuit, which created an uncomfortable dynamic in the locker room and ultimately helped derail their season.
While being involved in trade rumors might discourage some young players, Kyle Kuzma told Cari Champion of ESPN that seeing his name in the rumor mill was a pivotal point in his career during a recent interview:
“I think that was like a key moment in my career so far. I believe that I learned so much from that, more than anything. I feel like nothing can kind of faze me in a sense. Going through something like that your first time, and it’s in L.A., it was so scrutinized, so for me it’s like I’ve kind of been there, done that. So nothing can kind of faze me since, because I know if I can get through something like that and build on, it’s going to be good for me.”
That might have something to do with the fact that Kuzma was the only member of the Lakers’ young core to not be traded for Davis this summer.
Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball will suit up for the Pelicans next season, while Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones will play for the Washington Wizards, who will likely be one of the worst teams in the NBA next year.
Meanwhile, Kuzma gets to be the No. 3 option on offense on a team with James and Davis in sunny Los Angeles, CA. If I was Kuzma, I’d be pretty content with the way things are too.
That being said, Kuzma understands that with great power comes great responsibility, and he’s ready to lay it all out on the floor for the team that fought so hard to keep him:
“It motivates me. To have an organization that kind of trusts you and believes in you, for me that just motivates me more to get it done. Not only for what I want to do in my career, but for the organization because they think highly of me. I’m ready for it all.”
And while he’s grateful that he was one of the last men standing for the Lakers, he wasn’t exactly surprised:
“Surprised? No, not necessarily surprised.. You can’t really trade everybody.”
The Lakers were one Kuzma away from trading everybody, but they decided he’s the player they didn’t want to let go of. Hopefully Kuzma can make them feel vindicated with another strong year next season.