While fans are not often privy to the comings and goings behind the scenes in the NBA basketball world, players are rarely caught off guard. Agents, often the most powerful figures in basketball and sports, are in the middle of those closed-doors conversations and keep players prepared for possible outcomes, a change in dynamics in the modern era of sports.
That the Lakers, then, pulled off a trade this summer that caught even the players involved themselves off-guard is a rare feat. After a report this summer indicated not even the former Lakers involved in the trade that landed Russell Westbrook back in Los Angeles expected to go to Washington, Kyle Kuzma revealed as much on a recent appearance on “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas.”
“Man, I was kind of shocked because I thought I was going to Sacramento, like the Sacramento deal with Buddy Hield. Like, that s--- was done… But then out of nowhere, it goes ‘You’re going to Washington.’ But I was super hyped, obviously, because it’s like a better situation.”
The Lakers moved so swiftly from one deal to the other that it caught everyone involved off-guard, whether it was league insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN or the players themselves. After having LeBron James sign off on acquiring Westbrook over Buddy Hield, the Lakers switched gears toward Westbrook, who they considered their Plan B this offseason.
Being traded itself was not a surprise to Kuzma, who also revealed he sensed days in advance that he was likely heading out of Los Angeles.
“I didn’t (know I was going to be traded this summer). Honestly, I didn’t. But probably like, I would say, four or five days before free agency, I was like ‘Yeah, it’s going to be coming for sure.’ Because the agent may say something, this and that.”
Despite the hopeful persistent of many, the Hield trade never came to fruition for the Lakers, leaving Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell in Washington this upcoming season. Considering that deals for both Hield and Westbrook appear to have been agreed upon in some sense and capacity, the two players will likely be compared in the short-term, especially if the Lakers start slow under Westbrook this season.
But regardless of what plays out on the court, the Lakers agreeing to an off-court shocker of a trade this summer is remarkably rare in the modern NBA.