Before hosting the Wizards on Friday night, Frank Vogel waxed poetic about former Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma, who returned to Los Angeles for their first game since the offseason trade that sent them to Washington in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
Vogel said the two players would always be “family” as a result of the title they shared in 2020, and the Lakers and their fans welcomed them home as such, starting from the moment the two former champions were introduced as starters for the Wizards, with Kuzma being showered with a chorus of “Kuuuuuuz” cries in particular:
KCP and Kuz get warm welcomes as their names are announced in the Wizards’ starting lineup here at Crypto pic.twitter.com/8juUAh8ADZ— Cooper Halpern (@CooperHalpern) March 12, 2022
LeBron James went out of his way to hug both former teammates while welcoming them home:
Then, during the first timeout, the Lakers posted a tribute video about Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope’s four years together in Los Angeles. It featured clutch shots — including Vogel’s favorite Kuzma memory, his Bubble buzzer-beater against the Nuggets — fun moments between the two, and most of all, the triumphant 17th championship rings they helped power the team to in 2020:
“Nothing but love for those guys,” Vogel said pregame. “We won a championship together and just (had) a really positive experience with both of those two individual players in my time here, the two years that we were together. I was very sorry to see them go, but that’s the nature of this business, and if they’re not playing the Lakers we wish them nothing but success.”
That love shined through in the very nice tribute video, and as our own Donny McHenry wrote yesterday, it’s just nice to see those two again. No matter where they go from here, they’ll always be Lakers in the hearts of this fanbase.