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#pounditSaturday, July 2, 2022

Ex-LeBron James teammate explains what he likes about no longer being a Laker

LeBron James looking on

One well-known NBA player could not be happier to finally be out of the LeShadow this season.

Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma spoke this week on the difference for him this season now that he is no longer a Laker. Kuzma will be playing the Lakers on Friday for the first time since being traded.

“It’s been a great change of pace for me, a change of scenery,” he told The Athletic’s Josh Robbins. “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.

“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,” Kuzma added. “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.”

Kuzma touches on many other aspects of his basketball journey in the conversation with Robbins, which you can read in full here.

Kuzma, now 26, was drafted by the Lakers in 2017 and actually seemed to be enjoying himself during his rookie year. But LeBron James arrived in 2018, changing the entire dynamic of the franchise and the trajectory of their young players.

James did get Kuzma a ring in 2020 and is usually singlehandedly enough to get a team into contention (other than this season). But with James also comes overwhelming pressure and scrutiny for every single member of the organization. James’ teammates often seem to be scared of screwing up (as Kuzma hinted at here) and live in constant fear of being traded if they do not perform up to par. That can lead to a toxic atmosphere of bad body language and demoralization when the going gets tough (as we saw during the Lakers’ latest loss just this week).

As for Kuzma, he himself was traded by the Lakers as part of the failed move for Russell Westbrook this past offseason. With Washington though, Kuzma is enjoying a career year with 17.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Kuzma is not the only ex-Laker either who seems to like being gone from that team.

Photo: Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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