Current Washington Wizards wing and former Lakers champion Kyle Kuzma is not exactly being subtle about his love for the city of Los Angeles, even while insisting he’s not going to demand a trade back to his old team ahead of his impending free agency.
Ahead of his return to face the purple and gold on Sunday, his latest flirtations with his ex-organization came via an interview with Mellisa Rohlin of Fox Sports, in which he made no secret of how flattered he is by the Lakers’ reported interest in reacquiring him:
The irony isn’t lost on Kyle Kuzma.
After being on the trading block for pretty much his entire four-season career with the Lakers, L.A. has reportedly inquired about acquiring him from the Washington Wizards, as Bleacher Report first reported.
“I think it just shows you the grass is not always greener,” Kuzma told FOX Sports. “It’s definitely a good thing because at the end of the day, that means I’ve been playing well, and I have value in this league, that a team would want to trade for me. It’s a blessing.”
This is at least the fourth interview Kuzma has given about his upcoming free agency — he has said he’s opting out of his contract this summer — in less than a week before his return to L.A., after previously published remarks in The Athletic, ESPN and The Washington Post.
But while all that apparent free agent flirting with his former front office might make it seem like he’s eager to return — and that’s without mentioning his wistful tweets about his adopted home state — some of his other comments to Rohlin do cast some small measure of doubt over how willingly he would take on being a role player again.
Kuzma told Rohlin that while he knows sacrifice is necessary for every champion, “it was tough being that little bro on the team.”
“One night, you might get 10 shots. The next night, maybe they just need you to rebound. The next night, you might get 15 minutes. The next night, you might get 29 [minutes]. You never know. That’s [not getting] the fair end of the stick.”
“ … When I was in the moment and I was young, [I was] frustrated a lot of nights because, man, I really want this. I really want this. Everybody who knows me knows I’m really competitive. I really love basketball. A lot of nights it bothered me that I never got the chance to do what I’m doing now, play me.”
In an exclusive w/ @FOXSports, Kyle Kuzma opened up about his time with the Lakers.— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) December 17, 2022
-He felt like he got the "short end of the stick" with the team
-He called the Lakers' recent struggles "hard to watch"
-He commented on the team inquiring about himhttps://t.co/Kp9bgIWbbK
But even with those concerns voiced, it’s also fair to note that things might be a tad different this time around. For one thing, Anthony Davis has now embraced his role as the team’s starting center, meaning that there is another forward spot alongside LeBron James for Kuzma to fill rather than having to come off the bench to play his best position(s). And while James’ usage rate is about the same as it always has been for his tenure in Los Angeles, by the eye test he has been more willing to cede some ballhandling responsibilities, so it’s possible Kuz would get some more chances to cook, especially if Kuzma was also providing the length and size to guard wings the Lakers have been sorely lacking in their Lilliputian starting lineup.
Plus, with Kuz apparently graduating as the No. 1 student of the DeMar DeRozan Institute for Publicly Flirting with the Lakers, it’s fair to guess that he is interested in a reunion, and is likely aware of what he would have to do to fit in, regardless of these comments on how hard it was at points the first time around.
Still, these are the sorts of questions about fit, personal goals and more the Lakers will have to weigh internally as they debate how badly they should want to bring Kuzma back, to say nothing of the fact that they will not be alone in bidding with the Wizards for his services, or that Washington may still decide not to trade him. For now, the only thing we know for certain is that Kuzma is not even coming close to hiding his wandering eye. Where that leads is anyone’s guess.