The Los Angeles Lakers served a heap of nostalgia along with their explosive 122-109 performance Friday night against the Washington Wizards.
Fans were treated to a blast from the not-so-past as former Lakers players, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, returned to the now-Crypto.com Arena after being traded for Russell Westbrook this past summer. Both players stated their excitement to return to Los Angeles, and the appreciation they have for their former home.
The Lakers kicked off the reunion with a video tribute documenting both their time with Los Angeles. Fans showed their admiration for Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope throughout the night, which was highlighted by a 50-piece from LeBron James.
Kuzma knew the atmosphere at the Crypto.com Arena would be daunting, even without the historic James performance. Even so, he found his rhythm in the second half and helped the Wizards stay relevant with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Afterward, he reflected on his time with the Purple and Gold.
“It means I got a legacy here. At the end of the day, this is the team that drafted me, spent four years here.” Kuzma said on the nice ovation he received. “Laker Nation, and being a Laker is forever in my heart. We won a championship here, we did a lot of great things, I established myself. It’s really cool. I’m just a kid from Flint, Michigan at the end of the day. I always think about that, how being from a small town, coming to LA, and just making some noise. That’s the American dream, honestly for me. I love to hear it, I’m glad to hear it, for the fans to be so receptive of me.”
Kuzma no doubt drew inspiration from James’ performance. He’s been finding his groove in Washington and has made himself an integral part of their offense as he ties career highs in almost every category.
While he’s been flourishing in his new role, Kuzma doesn’t have the mentorship he entered the league with. The former Lakers guard reminisced on his time spent with James.
“LeBron, yeah that’s my brother. I wish we would’ve got more one on ones, he’s going for switches a lot. I’ve learned so much from him,” Kuzma said. “He’s really a big brother and mentor to me. I don’t know how I got stuck with him as a mentor, it’s just crazy. Like I said, being from Flint, a small town, now playing for the NBA, good friends with LeBron as a mentor, any time I need a resource he’s here. It’s an amazing feeling, honestly.”
Wizards lose crucial game as they fight for a spot in the Play-In Tournament
Despite Kuzma’s solid performance, the Wizards were unable to close the gap as the clock ran out, leaving them stuck behind the Atlanta Hawks and the Play-In Tournament by three games.
As much as Kuzma tried to prepare for the energy in the arena, he couldn’t have accounted for James lighting up the crowd.
“We just had a lot of mental errors. I think that was the biggest thing. It got a little rowdy in there, you can expect that,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, LJ [LeBron James] had a big game, the crowd was feeding off that. We can’t let that deteriorate us. We got to be able to stay calm and collected, and don’t get too high. We just didn’t do that tonight”.
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