Friday night will make the first game for both Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against the Los Angeles Lakers since being dealt to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook this past offseason. This won’t be their first game back in the now-Crypto.com Arena, however, as the Wizards just suffered a close loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Kuzma finished with 17 points while Caldwell-Pope had 16, but it wasn’t enough as the Clippers ended the game on an 11-0 run to come away with a victory. It was the first time Kuzma has ever had to be in the visitor’s dressing room, however, so it won’t be completely new to him when he returns to the arena on Friday.
But what will be different, at least in Kuzma’s eye, is the atmosphere of the building. Following the loss, Kuzma spoke about difference, noting that it might as well be a completely different arena when the Lakers play, via Mark Medina of NBA.com:
Clipper games ain’t Laker games. It’s two separate arenas really, and now it’s Crypto so we’ll get the real taste of this arena Friday.
Kuzma of course, helped the Lakers win their 17th NBA Championship in 2020, so his return, along with that of Caldwell-Pope is a notable one. And much like the Lakers, the Wizards are fighting to ensure a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
But Kuzma believes they can’t focus on that and simply have to find a way to get the victory:
We had a disappointing loss tonight, we gotta win that game. Every single game we gotta come out having a winning mentality. Obviously this is a big game for me and Pope. Obviously this is where we’ve been and won championships at. We just gotta figure out how to win that game.
There is no hiding the fact that Friday’s contest is not a normal one for Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope and the emotions will be there. Just because they have already played in the arena doesn’t change that because, as Kuzma noted, the building is completely different when the Lakers are on the court.
But this is a game that both teams need to get a victory in so all of that will have to be put on the side even though that is easier said than done.
Kuzma happy with role stability in Washington
While he isn’t competing for championships like he was with the Lakers, Kuzma is happy with the Wizards and is enjoying some things he has there that weren’t present in L.A.
Chief among those is role stability as Kuzma noted it is nice to have a role that isn’t fluctuating regularly. Kuzma also noted that he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder every time he makes a mistake for fear of being put on the bench.
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