The Los Angeles Lakers survived the NBA trade deadline. That may seem like a small feat, but when you consider how much trade rumors impacted the Lakers last year, it’s a small victory that’s worth celebrating.
Granted, this year was a bit different because unlike last season, not everyone on the roster was being offered in a trade for Anthony Davis, if for no other reason than the fact that Davis is now on the team. That being said, there were still a few Lakers whose names popped up in the rumor mill, most notably Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma.
The Lakers reportedly made both Green and Kuzma available in trade talks with the New York Knicks for Marcus Morris, and while Green and Kuzma are still in Los Angeles, their futures with the team were in doubt for a moment. That wasn’t enough to shake a 10-year veteran like Danny Green, though.
After the Lakers’ 121-111 loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday, Green said that he didn’t pay too much attention to the trade rumors this year.
“It didn’t really come across my desk,” Green said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to it much. It’s probably the least stressful free agency or trade deadline I’ve had, because you can’t control that. So I just went through my day. I think we all went through our day normally and figured we’re all gonna be here, and lucky enough we are here.
“I believe in this group. I know the pieces we have are good enough, so we’ve just got to figure out our rotations, rhythm, chemistry, matchups and adjustments.”
Green’s production has taken a slight dip from last year, but the Lakers know what to expect from him in the postseason, which is reliable shooting and lockdown perimeter defense. The same can’t be said of Kyle Kuzma, who has never played in the playoffs and looked shaky at times while adjusting to a new role this year.
The Lakers could have made a more concerted effort to trade Kuzma for someone who’s a little more consistent, but they opted to hold on to the third-year forward with the hope that he’ll figure things out eventually. While one might assume that puts added pressure on Kuzma, he said that’s not the case at all.
“Nope,” Kuzma said. “I just play my role, come in, play with energy, crash the boards every time and when I get the ball, try to make the best of it. There’s no pressure. The media people, they may try to make those extra pressures on you, but I trust in my teammates and I trust in what we’ve got going on here, and I just try to play my role.”
That’s probably the right mindset to have for Kuzma’s sake, but the Lakers really need something to a light the fire in his belly. Despite playing with more talent this season, Kuzma’s posting a career-low box plus-minus (BPM) of -4, which is the second-worst BPM of anyone that’s played more than 100 minutes for the Lakers this season, Quinn Cook is the worst at -4.9.
With Anthony Davis set to become an unrestricted free agent and LeBron James getting older, the window for the Lakers to win a championship is now, and if they’re going to do that, Kuzma needs to be better. If he’s not everything they need him to be, he might get the motivation he needs on another team next season.