Kyle Kuzma Hints at ‘Friction’ With LeBron James & Anthony Davis During Lakers Stint

LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Getty LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

During an exclusive interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Kyle Kuzma went off about getting traded by the Los Angeles Lakers to the Washington Wizards.

Kuzma, who spent the first four years of his career with the Lakers, was traded to the Wizards in the summer of 2021 in the blockbuster Russell Westbrook trade.

“As soon as I got traded, I was ready to be more,” Kuzma told Charania. “Being in this situation helped out a lot. Here, I’m not playing behind LeBron (James) and AD (Anthony Davis). Those guys are my position, my type of player, who I am, my style. So coming here, I don’t have that anymore. It’s been great because me, Brad (Bradley Beal) and KP (Kristaps Porzingis) don’t get in each other’s way. We all just flow out there. It’s been a pretty good jell for the first 20 games. We’re all averaging 20 a game without having any friction out there.”

Kuzma averaged 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 276 games with the Lakers while shooting 44.8% from the field, 33.8% from beyond the arc and 72.7% from the free-throw line. The Utah product enjoys playing for the Wizards since he’s not overshadowed by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, two of the best players in NBA history.

Kuzma: ‘I Had to Show a Shell of Myself’ Playing With Lakers

Kuzma told Charania that he wasn’t able to showcase his full game with the Lakers since he was playing behind James and Davis.

“Being in Washington is really just helping me be myself,” Kuzma said. “I had to show a shell of myself in L.A., playing with greatness, and rightfully so. That’s what you should do playing on a team with those type of players at my position. Whereas being in D.C. has allowed me to be myself and expand my game, which a lot of people probably didn’t think I was.”

Kuzma is averaging 20.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season while shooting 45.9% from the floor, 30.5% from deep and 73.8% from the charity stripe. The talented swingman always knew he was capable of being one of the top players in the league.

“I’ve always had belief from the jump,” Kuzma said. “I think over my years, I’ve had different roles, I’ve had different perceptions about me. Does he like basketball? Does he care about basketball? Does he like fashion? But for me, I just have this incredible self-belief. I believe that no matter who I’m on the court with, I’m the best player. And that’s gotten me to this level. That’s gotten me to where I am. That’s why I’m having the season I’m having, so my irrational confidence has always been a key thing for me.”

Kuzma Is Going to Get Paid

According to Charania, Kuzma is expected to approach in excess of $20 million to $25 million per year on a new deal next summer. The 27-year-old is in the second season of a three-year, $40 million contract he signed with the Lakers in 2020.

“The sky’s the limit,” Kuzma said. “In my first deal, I definitely did the Lakers a little favor to have the hometown discount. I always appreciate (Lakers vice president of basketball operations) Rob Pelinka for the deal that he gave me, because it gave me security and it gave me a player option. I was one of the few players in NBA history without being a lottery pick to have a player option in an extension. Everything has worked out in my favor from signing that deal to my progression as a player to this summer too.”

On December 5, Cuffs The Legend — who is James’ friend and an NBA analyst — tweeted that the Lakers should bring back Kuzma. However, that probably won’t happen.

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