After a dynamite rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kyle Kuzma was forced to change up his play style in order to accommodate the team.
In his first season playing alongside LeBron James, Kuzma had to learn how to impact the game without scoring as the touches were dominated by the superstar forward. Kuzma saw his offensive opportunities diminish more after the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, and even though the forward was looked at as the third star, he instead struggled trying to fit in on the court. However, the 2020-21 season was different as Kuzma –fresh off signing a three-year, $39 million extension— looked much more comfortable as a defender and rebounder off the bench.
Kuzma preached that he was willing to do whatever it took to help Los Angeles win, and although he embraced his new reality, he failed to make much of a difference in their first-round exit during the 2021 NBA Playoffs. With the Lakers in desperate need to make an upgrade to the roster and with limited assets to make a deal, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Kuzma’s time with the Purple and Gold came to an end.
The 25-year-old’s Laker tenure came to an end when the team agreed to terms on a deal that will send Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles. After the trade was announced, Kuzma posted a heartfelt farewell to Lakers Nation on his Instagram account:
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Hard enough to believe, but Kuzma was actually the longest-tenured Laker before the deal, and his departure officially ends the young core era. Kuzma leaves the Lakers an NBA Champion and presumably heads to Washington, where he should have more of an opportunity to show off his talent and skills.
Although Kuzma drew the ire of fans with his inconsistent play, he was still an integral piece of their rebuild and continuously worked on his game. Even though it is unfortunate to see him go, it will be exciting to see how Kuzma performs at his next stop.
Russell Westbrook thanks Washington D.C., Wizards
Much like Kuzma, Westbrook was appreciative of his time with his former team. The All-Star point guard took the time to thank Washington D.C. and the Wizards for his time there on his Instagram account.