Friday night will be the first game for Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against the Los Angeles Lakers since being dealt to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook last offseason. This won’t be their first game in the now Crypto.com Arena, as the Wizards are coming off a narrow loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Kuzma finished with 17 points while Caldwell-Pope had 16, but it wasn’t enough as the Clippers finished the game on an 11-0 run to come away with a win. It was the first time Kuzma was due to be in the visitors’ dressing room, so it won’t be completely new for him when he returns to the arena on Friday.
But what will be different, at least in Kuzma’s eyes, is the atmosphere of the building. Post-loss, Kuzma spoke about the difference, noting that it might as well be a completely different arena when the Lakers play, via NBA.com’s Mark Medina:
Clipper games are not Laker games. They’re really two separate arenas, and now it’s Crypto so we’ll get the real taste of that arena on Friday.
Kuzma of course helped the Lakers win their 17th NBA championship in 2020, so his return, along with Caldwell-Pope’s, is notable. And just like the Lakers, the Wizards are battling to secure a spot in the Play-In tournament.
But Kuzma thinks they can’t focus on that and just have to find a way to win:
We had a disappointing loss tonight, we have to win this game. Every game we have to come out with a winning mentality. Obviously, it’s a big game for me and Pope. Obviously, that’s where we’ve been and where we’ve won championships. We just have to figure out how to win this game.
We must not hide that Friday’s competition is not normal for Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope and emotions will be there. Just because they’ve played in the arena before doesn’t mean that changes because, as Kuzma noted, the building looks completely different when the Lakers are on the field.
But this is a game in which both teams need to come out on top, so all of that will have to be put aside, although that’s easier said than done.
Kuzma satisfied with stability of roles in Washington
Although he’s not competing for championships like he was with the Lakers, Kuzma is happy with the Wizards and appreciates some things he has there that weren’t present in Los Angeles.
Chief among these is role stability, as Kuzma noted that it’s nice to have a role that doesn’t fluctuate regularly. Kuzma also noted that he didn’t have to look over his shoulder every time he made a mistake for fear of being benched.
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