If there was one trait or quality that was most consistent with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, it was the camaraderie inside the locker room. Perhaps no friendship was stronger than the one rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma established.
It began shortly after they were selected in the 2017 NBA Draft, second and No. 27 overall, respectively, and carried into the Las Vegas Summer League. Injuries interrupted their time on the court but also allowed Kuzma to develop and shine into his own star.
Throughout their trials and tribulations, Ball and Kuzma regularly attacked one another — lightheartedly — on social media and in person. They would often involve teammates such as Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram as well.
But matters may have escalated this week, with Ball releasing a song, “Kylie Kuzma” that takes direct aim at his teammate. In it, Ball criticizes Kuzma’s shooting, but the more eye-raising topic was mention of the versatile forward not having a relationship with his biological father.
During an appearance on the “The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne answered whether the Lakers are upset with the song, before providing additional details and context:
“Yeah. Like, honestly, if you’re the Lakers, first of all, Lonzo and Kuz, Kuz proved himself in terms of work ethic and his rookie season, 10 times over. I mean, this guy was incredible for them. He was a great find at the end of the first round, First Team All-Rookie. But, he still has some growth to do. He’s still working on different aspects of his game. He has a lot of work to do this summer. And Lonzo, as Magic Johnson has said, Rob Pelinka has said, needs to get in the weight room. I think Magic called it the most important summer of his life. So, the optics on it aren’t great.
“It’s OK to sell your Big Baller shoes and put your Big Baller rap song out, I thought it was kind of funny. I loved D-Mo with the cameo. ‘Get your merch. Get your merch.’ But when the back-and-forth between you and Kuz gets a little personal and a little much, you’re not just on an IG story. These are actual diss tracks with real production values that you’re spending time and energy on. It just doesn’t look all that professional. And it certainly doesn’t look all that serious for a young team that’s trying to position itself as a team that wants to win right now. … I know that the Lakers certainly want to let their guys have fun. They don’t mind it on a certain level. But the latest stuff, I’ve definitely gotten some text messages back-and-forth of LA from people within and outside the organization doing a double take.”
This summer is arguably the most important for the Lakers in several years. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have masterfully put the franchise in position to sign two max-contract free agents this summer or by next summer.
The front office isn’t simply relying on free agency, however, as they’ve challenged Ball, Kuzma and their young core to take the next step in their development.
Whether or not Ball’s song or Kuzma’s video with Bleacher Report that similar attacked the point guard, will have any impact on LeBron James’ or Paul George’s decisions, may never be made public. But if the Lakers are to miss out on signing both, that will certainly be the perception.