When an NBA team brings in a lot of young talent at around the same time as the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s only natural they all develop a bond.
Ingram was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft while Ball was the No. 2 pick the following year as Kuzma and Hart were later taken in the first round. All four players showed signs of being excellent players in the league and gave Lakers fans something to be excited about for the future.
However, as is often the case in the NBA, the young players ultimately became the assets needed to trade for an All-Star player. Ingram, Ball, and Hart were dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, leaving Kuzma as the last member. Even still, Kuzma believes in his former teammates, recently telling Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN they’ll develop into the superstars they were supposed to be with the Pelicans:
“They were excited,” Kuzma said of Ingram, Ball and Hart after the trade. “It’s a little bit less pressure. They didn’t [actually] say that. But obviously being in L.A., there’s more pressure. They can be themselves now. They can go to New Orleans and develop into the superstars they were supposed to be.”
Ingram and Ball especially had times where they looked like future All-Star players while Hart seemed like a lock to be an above-average role player. Unfortunately for all three, injuries continually hampered their progress and Kuzma believes that has led some to forget how good things were going when they were on the floor:
“I thought that we made some growth over the two years together. Obviously, a lot of people didn’t necessarily see it because of injuries — BI, Zo not really playing a lot of games over the past two years. But when we played together and we were on the court together, good things happened.”
Over the last two seasons, Ingram has missed 53 games while Ball has missed 65. Hart has faired better by missing just 25 games over the same time period, but also played much of the 2018-19 NBA season dealing with knee tendinitis which severely hampered his game.
One thing for sure is that they will certainly be out of the team’s spotlight which could very well be positive. Being on a team in New Orleans full of young, promising talent and a good head coach should be a positive and they could easily prove Kuzma right and become All-Star players away from Los Angeles.