Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma can’t get away from rumors ahead of NBA trade deadline
The question seemed to catch Kyle Kuzma off guard and it left him asking a question back to a reporter.
Has your mind wandered to Thursday, Kuzma was asked after he had delivered a statement game for the Lakers with a double-double of 18 points and a team-high 12 rebounds to go along with four assists?
“What is Thursday?” Kuzma asked.
The trade deadline, Kuzma was told.
“I really don’t care, honestly,” Kuzma said. “I can’t control it. I get traded, I get traded. Don’t matter. I’m still going to play basketball. I’m still going to play the game I love. I’m still going to get paid and I’m still going to play the game.”
LeBron James finished with 36 points and five fourth-quarter three-pointers in delivering the Lakers a victory at home over the Spurs.
Again, Kuzma has heard his name come up in trade talks in the past few weeks.
He was among the players the Lakers and Pelicans had talked about when the two teams tried to put together a deal for Anthony Davis last season.
This season, Kuzma’s name has been mentioned with the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks.
“I mean, I’ve been in trade talks for three years and every year that I’m here I’m going to be in them and that’s just how I see it,” Kuzma said. “That’s how the media is on this side of town … I’ve dealt with it … I’m used to it now. I understand the business. That’s why I got to treat it like a business too.”
Kuzma is in his third year with the Lakers and he said he learned from Kobe Bryant that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have other teams yearning for the 6-foot-9 forward with the smooth shooting stroke.
“Kobe used to tell me if they’re not talking about you then you should be worried,” Kuzma said. “And I’m the talk of the town.”
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley has been invited to participate in the Skills Challenge and Lakers center Dwight Howard will compete in the Slam Dunk Contest.
Tuesday night was the second time in the last three games Kuzma has collected double figures in rebounds.
He had 15 against the Portland Trail Blazers last Friday night, leaving an impression upon his teammates.
“He’s just playing with a high motor, attacking the glass, getting a lot of rebounds, scoring, playing great defense,” Davis said. “Whatever he has been doing the past couple of games, we’re going to need that for the rest of the year.”
So, Kuzma was asked, how does he feel about what Davis said about him?
“Obviously, my teammates still believe in me, have confidence in me and I guess they want me here,” Kuzma said. “I don’t know.”
The last two weeks have taken a toll on Kuzma and not just because of the rumors.
LeBron James is named NBA Western Conference player of the month for January, becoming the first Lakers player to win the award since Kobe Bryant.
He lost a friend and mentor when Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in Calabasas along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
Dealing with trade rumors is easy.
“I think it just kind of goes back to self-reflecting over this past week,” Kuzma said. “It’s been really tough for me with the passing thing. I think it was a good time for me to really just look back and reflect on what made Kobe so great.
“Everybody talks about the Mamba mentality of being a vicious scorer, looking to score, but that’s not even what that is. That mentality is to be tenacious, play with heart and be relentless at all times. Obviously, it’s a little bit tougher to navigate the scoring, but I can play hard every possession on defense and rebound and just try to play to win. I think this past week has been good for me just to realize some things and see where my eggs are.”
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