BOSTON — Until Anthony Davis is traded this summer, the comparisons for Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum and the rest of the young stars from the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics won’t stop.
Thursday’s NBA trade deadline came and went with Davis remaining in New Orleans, meaning there will continue to be months of speculation and analysis surrounding whether the Lakers or Celtics have the best package to swing a deal for the star forward.
The NBA schedule makers have both a sense of humor and foresight, as the Lakers and Celtics met Thursday night at TD Garden in a game the struggling Lakers desperately needed to win. They did just that, storming back from an 18-point first-half deficit to stun the Celtics, 129-128, on Rajon Rondo’s buzzer beater.
Kuzma was a huge reason for LA’s comeback win, as the talented forward poured in 19 of his 25 points in the second half.
While most of the young players who are rumored to be part of the talks have brushed off the rumors and comparisons, Kuzma admitted after the game he was motivated to play against Tatum, who is seen as the best available young player either team can offer for Davis and was drafted ahead of Kuzma in 2017.
“I mean, for sure,” Kuzma said when asked if it served as motivation for him to show out Thursday. “I don’t know about for everybody, but for me, I always have to take that challenge with Tatum, every single game. Obviously, he went higher than me in the same draft class. For me, I think I’m better than everybody, that’s just my mentality and how I approach things. And I look forward to playing guys that were drafted ahead of me, not just him.”
Kuzma scored 14 of his 25 points in the third quarter and drained a clutch 3-pointer with under a minute remaining to give the Lakers a one-point lead. It’s a shot he told Tatum he would knock down if given the chance.
“I was really glad I hit that shot,” Kuzma chuckled. “I told my buddy Tatum that if I got a look, I was going to hit it and I did so I didn’t look dumb.”
LA now will go forward with its current group for the remainder of the season. It’s a roster that, when healthy, looked like one of the best teams in the NBA during a hot December, but has struggled amid injuries and trade rumors over the past few weeks.
Still, the Lakers showed Thursday night they can beat the NBA’s best if they are as motivated and as hungry as Kuzma.
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images