We know that Kyle Kuzma wants to play when the NBA attempts to resume the season it paused due to the threat of the coronavirus. However, it seems that the third-year Los Angeles Lakers wing wants some assurances if he’s going to do so.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kuzma is among a few young players looking for insurance in the case of an injury happening due to play ramping back up so quickly in Orlando:
Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Boston’s Jayson Tatum — five players with significant star and earning power — talked with executive director Michele Roberts and senior counsel Ron Klempner about the NBPA facilitating talks with the league on possible insurance allowances for players, sources said.
As members of the 2017 NBA Draft Class, these five players are eligible for rookie extensions beginning with the start of the free agency period in mid-October. The increased risk of injury, based on a three month-plus league shutdown and a shortened training camp, has intensified concerns that the players are taking on heightened personal risk with the season’s resumption.
Kuzma seemingly confirmed the report on Twitter:
Yes I want to ask questions. I do want to compete but the things you guys have to understand is this is a business and it’s not just fun and games anymore. It’s okay for teams and owners to have insurance on their brands and business. But we can’t for ourselves? https://t.co/DEjfSe4QjD— kuz (@kylekuzma) June 13, 2020
Kuzma would obviously get the rest of his guaranteed money from the Lakers regardless, but as Woj notes, this is more about his next contract. Players are only going to have a few weeks to get ready for the season as its currently proposed, which could lead to more injuries.
That risk has seemingly been on Kuzma’s mind for a while, and he spoke about where his concerns about it were coming from in an interview with “The Undefeated” earlier this week:
“From an NBA standpoint I think the biggest challenge is getting our bodies right... Probably when we start playing there is going to be a game every other day, and probably not that much time to prepare our bodies, so the biggest thing is making sure everybody’s bodies can handle the load that we’re about to get in to. That’s a serious thing, and of course everyone wants us to play — and rightfully so, we do too — but it’s about our safety first.
“It’s interesting, I heard something about a German league coming back, and when they came back they had 19 season-ending injuries when they came back, and that just shows you that it’s important for our bodies to be able to withstand that load.”
As Woj mentioned, Kuzma is eligible for an extension whenever actual NBA offseason begins, and this year he’s already dealt with a nagging stress reaction that lingered from when he had to leave USA Basketball last summer through the first several weeks of the season. Him wanting to make sure he’s protected in the case of an injury is an understandable instinct, but it also may not be possible, for reasons outlined by former NBA executive and current ESPN writer Bobby Marks:
A valued diminishing insurance policy is 1) extremely expensive 2) hard to collect on even if a player suffers an injury. Teams are also exposed because any significant injury would not be covered on the next contract.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 13, 2020
Regardless, based on the way Kuzma has been talking, it seems extremely unlikely he would sit out either way. If he did, the Lakers would be able to add a player to replace him during the league’s not-yet-scheduled transaction window prior to the season resumption. As the NBA and NBPA try to figure out if they can reach an agreement to finish the 2019-20 season, how they proceed on this is yet another angle to look out for.