Kyle Kuzma’s New Beginning

During the 2018-2019 season, Kyle Kuzma thrived under the tutelage of Lebron James. We assumed he’d be an ascendent young talent comparable to Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. But with the acquisition of superstar Anthony Davis in the subsequent offseason, there was a new lay of the land.

To avoid being considered presumptuous, Kuzma felt contrived to find his own niche and role on the team, as opposed to simply playing his natural game. However, it affected his playstyle, which became inconsistent and capricious.

Some days, he played with overt circumspection to the point where Laker fans urged him to be aggressive and take risks. Other days, he took precipitous shots to the chagrin of the Laker fans, who wanted Kuzma to play with complete deference to James and Davis.

It felt like he was trying to ingratiate himself with LeBron James so he wouldn’t be casted away like the rest of the fledgling young core of the 2018-2019 season- Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram were both dealt for Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade.  Kuzma could sense the onset of the imminent trade deadline. However, he wasn’t traded, which means he had a chance of vindication in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, his play during the 2021 playoffs was reprehensible to say the least. He averaged 6.3 PPG on unenviable shooting splits- 29.2 % from the field, 17.4% from 3. His trade stock has never been lower, but the Lakers managed to send him in a package to the Washington Wizards for all-star Russell Westbrook.

You would assume that most players would demur at the idea of being traded away, but Kuzma welcomed it. And this isn’t the first time a player wanted to opt out of a Lebron James-led team; Kyrie Irving, all-star for the Brooklyn Nets, requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017. Perhaps Lebron James’ leadership is the disquieting common denominator.

Kuzma sometimes fell victim to the provocations of NBA twitter. During the season, he dyed his hair frequently. When it was blond, NBA Twitter joked that he looked like a 6’9 Amber Rose. Or maybe Eminem. Regardless, it was patent that the criticisms had less to do with basketball and more with his personal life.

Laker fans also admonished him for focusing more on fashion line than on his basketball game, as if NBA players can’t live life outside of basketball. Such is the prescriptive environment that characterizes the cachet of the Lakers organization – Kobe Bryant established a culture of basketball perfection that the fans have been accustomed to.

“Laugh now, cry later,” Kuzma tweeted to his Twitter haters after the news of the trade surfaced media. It’s a bold letter of intent, but Kuzma’s always been a bold social media personality, Laker Fans usually ridiculing him for it.

But like the proverb says, actions speak louder than words. Extricating himself from his Laker duties, he becomes one of the focal offensive pieces alongside Bradley Beal on the Wizards- everything he could ask for.  Hopefully this trade is the needed recourse that rejuvenates his career.