When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook last offseason, they had to give up key rotation members to do so.
The Lakers were forced to trade away Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two integral players on the 2020 championship team who have proven difficult to replace. With the Wizards, Kuzma has looked great in a bigger role while Caldwell-Pope remains a steady two-way presence.
Fortunately, the Lakers were able to spoil their return when they beat the Wizards 122-109, but head coach Frank Vogel spoke highly of his former players before the contest.
“Nothing but love for those guys. They’ll always be family, we won a championship together,” Vogel said. “Just 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.”
During their time donning Purple and Gold, Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope embraced making winning plays on both ends and Vogel believes they were appreciated appropriately. “Yeah, they were two of our best dirty work guys during that championship run and in the two years that they were here. I really respected what they did on both sides of the ball, so I don’t think internally we ever took them for granted or anything like that. They were great for us.”
It was sad to see Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope go in the trade, and Vogel made sure to thank them for their efforts when it was finalized.
“Of course. [I relayed] gratitude to them first, disappointment that I wasn’t gonna be their coach anymore and they weren’t gonna be in our system. But obviously we all understand it’s a business and trades happen, but really just a lot of love and respect for our time together understanding that when you win the championship with someone, that relationship holds forever. So those two guys are gonna be family forever, I just wish nothing but the best for them expect tonight.”
Because of their contributions to a title, Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope will always hold a special place in fans’ hearts and hopefully they continue to find success in their NBA careers.
Frank Vogel’s favorite Kyle Kuzma memory
Kuzma was definitely a personality when he was in Los Angeles, and Vogel had a hard time picking his favorite memory of the forward before settling on his game-winner against the Denver Nuggets.
“Only a hundred [laughs]. Kuz is a fun guy to coach, he really is a fun guy to be around every day and to talk about the game, he loves to think the game, he loves to learn and grow. It’s tough to say one moment, he made some game-winners inside practices, in late-game situation practice, so I think probably the first thing that comes to mind is that game-winner he hit against Denver where he flew off to the corner.
“He didn’t just do it in practice, but we used Bron and Ad as decoys and allowed Kuz to get that shot and he knocked it down, just like he had done in practice.”
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