The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook this offseason in a deal that sent Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the draft rights to Isaiah Jackson to the Washington Wizards.
Kuzma, in particular, was essential to making the swap work. His roughly $3 million contract from the 2020-21 season becomes $13 million for the 2021-22 season.
In the weeks leading up to this trade occurring, there were multiple reports leaking out about how badly the Lakers wanted to get rid of Kuzma. It was beginning to sound pretty desperate. Because of how much chatter there was, most figured that the 26-year-old was expecting something to happen.
Nope. As it turns out, the trade to D.C. really took Kuzma by surprise.
Not because the former Utah standout wasn’t expecting to be dealt, but because he was under the impression that he was being sent to the Sacramento Kings.
Kuzma thought he was getting traded to Sacramento 👀
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 6, 2021
“I was kinda shocked because I thought I was going to Sac. [The trade for] Buddy Hield, that sh*t was done. I’m thinking in my head ‘Okay, well, I’m in Sac’–45-minute flight, not bad. But then out of nowhere, it goes ‘you’re going to Washington,’” Kuzma explained.
“I was super-hyped, obviously, because it’s a better situation. Going to Sacramento would’ve been fun, I would’ve went crazy for sure. But to have the opportunity to play with Brad Beal–someone that is trying to really be a winner in this league–is just the perfect opportunity.”
It’s not quite clear how Kuzma is handling being traded from arguably the most glamorous franchise in the NBA to a rebuilding group like the Wizards. Sometimes he sounds totally at peace with what transpired, whereas other times he seems a bit salty about it.
Pat Riley confirms what everyone already knew about Tyler Herro. https://t.co/YIruP0wvXr
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 5, 2021
Over the past few months Kuzma has taken what some perceive to be shots at LeBron James and Anthony Davis over how his Lakers run ended, which has led to questions regarding how tumultuous his relationship with James truly was. That said, neither side has explicitly come out and confirmed any beef in an official capacity.
It’ll be interesting to see how Kuzma plays in D.C. If he can return to the form he was in during his early LA days, the Wizards got an absolute steal. Should he continue playing the way he had in his last couple of years for the Lakers, however, then we likely won’t be hearing much from Kuzma going forward.