There’s still time for things to change but it’s looking like the Washington Wizards were the winners of the Russell Westbrook trade. While the Los Angeles Lakers and Wizards both have 19 wins apiece, the former is playing much worse than expected while the latter is playing much better. A big reason for Washington’s improved play is Kyle Kuzma, who was sent to them as part of the Westbrook trade.
Over the last four games, Kuzma has scored over 20 points in each, including a 36 point performance against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. He showed a lot of promise early in his career with the Lakers but his numbers fell off after the team acquired Anthony Davis. He was the subject of trade rumors for years before Los Angeles finally dealt him. He’s now starting to look like the Kuzma fans saw when he first entered the league.
Wizards star Bradley Beal believes that the reason that the young forward is playing so well right now directly has to do with the fact that he’s away from Los Angeles.
“He now has it where he can flap his wings. He can breathe and relax and go play. He doesn’t have to worry about all that outside stuff, the distractions per se. He can go hoop,” Beal said of Kuzma, per Chase Hughes NBC Sports.
Those comments from Beal sound like a bit of a shot at the Lakers and the distractions that surround the franchise. While the team could have a bit of regret for trading Kuzma, it was clear he needed a fresh start.
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Kuzma Talks Playing in Washington
It’s hard to imagine Kuzma has any regrets about his Lakers tenure. He became a star and won a championship. However, it was clearly time to move on to other things. He just wasn’t a great fit on the team anymore. He believes he’s a much better fit with the Wizards.
“I’m just in a great situation here in Washington. The coaching staff believes in me, the players believe in me and I’m just having fun, honestly. I’m having a lot of fun,” Kuzma said.
Kuzma Believes He’s Showing What He Can Do
Even during his down years in Los Angeles, Kuzma would show star-level flashes. After his rookie season, it looked like he might develop into a superstar. That’s not on the table anymore but he can be the third or fourth-best player on a championship team. He believes he’s finally showing what he can do.
“Fit and opportunity is everything in this league. … This is a sport where there are extreme highs and extreme lows. But if you’re in a position, like I am fortunate enough [to be in] and have people that believe in me, you can see what I can do,” Kuzma said.
Though he’s had an incredible recent stretch, he’s still only averaging 14.5 points a game. That’s lower than his first two seasons in the league. He still has more to do to prove that he’s a better player than the Lakers gave him credit for.