It’s the summer of Kyle Kuzma, and Lakers fans are just living in it.
Kuzma was recently interviewed in an ESPN piece with Ohm Youngmisuk, where he talked about many things involving his individual growth as well as the Anthony Davis trade that sent Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart to the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster deal.
In regards to the three young players mentioned above that were sent to New Orleans, Kuzma had an interesting quote that can be taken in a couple ways:
“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.”
Many people on Twitter were quick to point out that Kuzma might have accidentally insinuated that Ingram, Ball, and Hart couldn’t really handle the pressure that comes with playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. It especially seems this way as he continues, saying that “they can be themselves now”.
I understand people thinking that, but I don’t think Kuzma meant any ill-will towards his three former teammates by saying that. I think it just shows how aware Kuzma is of the environment in L.A. and how it’s more taxing than just about any other place in the NBA. I personally think Ingram, Ball, and Hart always showed that they could handle the Los Angeles spotlight, as well as the trade rumors and news stories that follow LeBron James everywhere he goes.
I believe the same goes for Kuzma (although his play during the trade rumors wouldn’t really back that up). The only difference I see with Kuzma is that he’s really embraced the L.A. life more than Ingram, Ball, and Hart ever did. Just take 30 seconds to look at Kuzma’s Instagram page and you’ll see that although he was born in Flint, Michigan, he’s about that L.A. lifestyle. Not only that, but he has deeply engrained himself in the Lakers organization from the get-go, forming what seems to be a great relationship with Jeanie Buss as well as training with Kobe Bryant last offseason.
As for Kuzma saying he thinks Ingram, Ball, and Hart can now “develop into the superstars they were supposed to be”, he talks about what having LeBron James and others on the team did to their growth, saying this:
“For those guys, especially speaking of Zo, BI, they are best when they have the ball in their hands. It is kind of tough when we get vets that are ball-dominant guys. So it kind of stunted their growth.”
Although I’m a little skeptical when it comes to Kuzma’s evaluation of Lonzo Ball’s skillset, I’d say he’s right on the money with Ingram. The pairing of Ingram and LeBron was clunky at times, as Ingram thrives in isolation.
If you don’t have that additional quote regarding their growth being stunted, I can definitely see how the initial “pressure” quote can be taken the wrong way. I don’t think Kuzma meant anything by it, and I also don’t think the quote will create and riffs within the relationships between all four players.