Earlier this week, there was a report that multiple NBA teams were sniffing around to see if they could pry Kyle Kuzma away from the Los Angeles Lakers, interest that the initial report made it appear that Rob Pelinka and the front office were rebuffing.
According to the latest from Sam Amick of The Athletic, however, the Lakers are now at least listening to offers, even if a trade doesn’t appear to be on the immediate horizon:
Will Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka eventually send him packing to upgrade the Lakers’ roster for a title run? As our Shams Charania reported Friday, teams are monitoring his situation and wondering whether he can be had before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. What’s more, sources now say the Lakers have shown a recent willingness to listen to pitches for Kuzma.
And … we’re off — sort of. From the Lakers’ perspective, this open-phone-lines approach is merely a case of Pelinka doing due diligence as opposed to having substantive discussions. If only because nothing of real interest has come their way — yet.
At practice on Saturday, Kuzma wasn’t asked about either of these reports specifically, but he did speak about trade rumors in general, and just said they are something players have to expect when they become a Laker.
“I don’t really worry about it. For me, I’ve been in trade rumors ever since I came here. I think that’s just a thing that happens when you’re a Laker. You’re always in trade rumors, especially around this time,” Kuzma said. “At the end of the day, you just control what you can control.”
It’s a good thing for Kuzma that he’s developed that attitude, because two Athletic reports from two separate writers on this within days of each other when there is still around a month to go until the Feb. 6 trade deadline likely means that this will be far from the last we hear about Kuzma’s availability.
Whether he’ll ultimately get dealt or not is unclear, but Amick did provide a bit more context about the internal factors that might affect Kuzma’s availability, from his relationship (or lack thereof) with Klutch Sports, to how LeBron James and Rob Pelinka seem to feel about him:
As a brief but fascinating side note, there’s this, too: Kuzma changed agents last summer and is now represented by CAA’s Leon Rose, but that marketing-driven choice came after he was known to have considered joining Rich Paul of Klutch Sports — the well-known agent for LeBron and AD. We’ll never know how that might have changed the dynamic surrounding this situation, but it might have given him more juice when it comes to contract talks with the Lakers (assuming he stays put).
There’s another key factor here, too, one that multiple executives polled by The Athletic cited when discussing Kuzma’s situation: Pelinka, who drafted him 27th overall out of Utah in 2017, is widely known to be his biggest backer and is widely expected to be reluctant to move him. There have been many tumultuous times during Pelinka’s Lakers tenure, which began three months before that draft, but Kuzma has been one of his success stories. That kind of personal element can never be forgotten.
As for James, whose influence and voice should never be overlooked in situations like this, a source with knowledge of his thinking said he remains supportive of Kuzma — even after a social media snafu with Kuzma’s trainer, who threw shade LeBron’s way after the Lakers’ Christmas Day loss to the Clippers and inspired the understandable questioning of Kuzma by the media in Lakers Land a day later.
Kuzma — at least according to this report — having the support of James and Pelinka is no small thing, although it’s easy to imagine that we wouldn’t be getting these reports at all had he gone with Klutch last summer, as it seems unlikely that Davis and (especially) James would be as open to their agency-mate getting shipped out, as players, especially Klutch ones, seem to really value those relationships.
“We view our relationships here with our star players as partnerships,” Pelinka said in July. “Both of their input, Anthony’s and LeBron’s, has been incredibly valuable to me.”
It would seem to be exceedingly improbable that doing things that way is set to change anytime soon, especially given that Davis is a free agent that the Lakers need to convince to re-sign to justify the price they paid for him. Meanwhile, James is one of the most respected players in NBA history, and someone who trusted the Lakers with the last phase of his career, a trust the Lakers have clearly and openly tried to reward with the amount of agency they give him over the team.
How this will or won’t affect Kuzma as we get closer to the trade deadline is not immediately clear, but those and all the other factors Amick reported on will be worth closely monitoring over the next month or so. As mentioned here yesterday, Kuzma’s age and the cheapness of his contract make it harder decision to trade him both practically and pragmatically, but the reports of the last two days make it plain that if the Lakers can get an immediate upgrade that will get them closer to winning it all this year, they’re at least willing to consider it.