While the Los Angeles Lakers were impacted by mounting injuries and the likes of Kyle Kuzma (hip strain) and Josh Hart (knee tendinitis) playing through their own malaises, it was clear in a blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers that Anthony Davis trade rumors had caught up to the team.
Speculation ran wild the week prior, but as the trade deadline drew near, the Lakers reportedly increased their offer. It grew to include Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kuzma, Ivica Zubac and multiple first-round draft picks.
But not receiving much, if any, response from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers withdrew from talks Tuesday morning. Despite facing an Pacers team that was without Victor Oladipo and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers were run off the court.
The 42-point defeat marked the worst loss of James’ career in a game he played in. “It’s super tough on a team mentally and physically,” Kuzma said, reflecting on the humbling defeat after the Lakers won a triller against the Boston Celtics.
“For us to come out, everything we’ve been dealing with — not just trade rumors but injuries, imbalanced rotations and everything — it was great just to get a win. We can build on this potentially.”
Kuzma had previously dismissed the notion that trade rumors were taking any affect on him. He touted it as a compliment and sign of having staying-power in the league. One week later, that tone changed.
“It didn’t really wear on me too much until kind of last second. That Pacers game,” Kuzma admitted. “For me, I just tried to continue to work and try to prepare for whatever situation I was going to be in. At the end of the day it’s the NBA. Everybody is tradable in this league.”
The Lakers ultimately kept their young core intact, instead opting for a pair of minor trades that saw the departures of Michael Beasley, Svi Mykhailiuk and Zubac, and the arrivals of Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala.
Kuzma has now found a renewed sense of ease with the trade deadline having passed. “I can actually pick up my phone, relax and text people. People will want to talk to me without asking about getting traded,” he said.
Kuzma’s play supported his claim. He erupted for 14 points in the third quarter and finished with 22 in what undeniably was a much-needed win. Strange as it may seem, Kuzma began to feel at ease after the Lakers took their drubbing.
“I feel like after the Pacers game, I kind of just realized the trade wasn’t going to happen, from what I was hearing. Getting a lot off my chest and talking to people, I was kind of relieved after that game,” he explained. “Crazy as it sounds, you lose by 40 and be relieved.”
Reminder: Vivid Seats is the Official Ticket Reseller of LakersNation.com. New Customers use “LAKERSNATION” (all CAPS) in the Vivid Seats App on your phone and get 10% off any Lakers home game ticket order for the remainder of the season.