Kyle Kuzma Throws Shade at Lakers Ahead of Return to LA

Getty Images Kyle Kuzma of the Washington Wizards.

There’s no love lost between Kyle Kuzma and the Los Angeles Lakers, with the 26-year-old forward now shining with his new team in Washington.

Kuzma spent the first four seasons of his career with the Lakers and had been openly critical of his role with the team, especially down the stretch when he was coming off the bench. Now with the Wizards, Kuzma is averaging a career-high 33.6 minutes per games, putting up 17.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Kuzma feels he can now “be himself” in Washington and not worry so much about making mistakes.

“It’s been a great change of pace for me, a change of scenery,” Kuzma told The Athletic. “I did as much as I (could) to maximize (myself) when I was with my former team, with changing my role every single year for the betterment of the team and trying to fit in with great players. But here, it’s been a lot different, because I don’t necessarily have to do that. My role has changed here. If you think about the first 25 games, I was in a different type of role than I am now: more scoring and just doing more things with the ball. It’s just great to be in a situation where I can just be myself and do what I do, and not dummy myself down.

“It’s great, because I’m not looking over my shoulder. Every time I’m making a mistake, I’m not looking at my head coach. I can focus on the game. Obviously, I don’t want to make mistakes. But that’s a part of it when you’re growing. I’m 26, but I’m really growing.”

Kuzma has been able to take on a larger role with the Wizards, especially with Bradley Beal out of the lineup. Beal has played just 40 games this season and has not been in the lineup since January. It should be noted, while Kuzma is playing better, the Wizards are 29-34 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Kuzma Wanted to Prove Himself in Larger Role

Kuzma won a title with the Lakers in the bubble and it appeared that the former 27th overall pick wanted a chance to prove himself in a larger role.

Kuzma started 32 of 68 games during his final season with the Lakers, taking on a larger role with players banged up. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, leading the Lakers in made 3-pointers. Kuzma said prior to being dealt that he felt he could be an All-Star-caliber player with a larger, more consistent role.

“I definitely can. I definitely believe that, too,” Kuzma told Bleacher Report. “I don’t really care what nobody thinks or says. I know myself, and I know my ability. It’s hard to be consistent in an inconsistent role. I’m excited for a more consistent space next year.”

Lakers Struggling With Lack of Depth

It’s fair to say at this point that the blockbuster trade that brought Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles has been a debacle. The former MVP has struggled to find his groove with the Lakers and is now pleading with the fan base to not call him names at home games.

It hurt for the Lakers because they shipped away multiple valuable trade chips in the deal, including Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell.

The Lakers opted instead to go with an older roster with a significant chunk of the roster on minimum contracts. That hasn’t worked out and LA is 28-36, battling for their postseason lives.

The Lakers and Wizards face off at Arena on Friday.

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