Having seen teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis agree to new contracts in back-to-back days, Kyle Kuzma said his representatives have been in contract with the Lakers regarding his own contract status.
Kuzma, who is making $3.5 million this season, is eligible for a contract extension with the Lakers. It’ll be up to Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager, to decide what’s the best course to take with Kuzma.
“Yeah, we've talked, so it's obviously just talk between my agent and the organization,” Kuzma told reporters during a videoconference Thursday after a workout at the team’s practice facility. “They're working through things. So, we'll see.”
The Lakers can make Kuzma a qualifying offer, which would be worth about $5.2 million for next season. If the Lakers take that route — which would make Kuzma a restricted free agent next summer — they keep their rights to match any offer Kuzma would receive from another team.
Kuzma averaged 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, his third in the NBA. He shot 43.6% from the field and 31.6% from three-point range. He averaged 10 points and 3.1 rebounds in the postseason, and shot 43% from the field, 31.3% from three-point range.
Kuzma’s superstar teammates, James and Davis, signed deals that will keep them in Los Angeles through the 2022-23 and 2024-25 seasons, respectively.
James signed a two-year extension worth $85 million Thursday as Davis was finalizing a five-year contract for $190 million.
“It's a very good time for those guys, so deserving, obviously bringing it home, championship No. 17,” Kuzma said. “Those guys deserve it and they're hell of players obviously. Don't need to keep repeating that. But I'm very happy for those guys.”
Caruso’s popularity grows
He is an NBA champion and that has meant Alex Caruso’s popularity with Lakers’ fans has only increased.
Caruso said during his videoconference with reporters Thursday it is “normal” for his and teammates’ notoriety to grow because the Lakers won the franchise's 17th title, “but there was always a kind of little buzz about me given the state of Lakers basketball and kind of the come-up that I’ve had, the exposure I’ve gotten over the last year, 1½, 2 years.”
Caruso started Game 6 of the NBA Finals when the Lakers clinched the title against the Miami Heat.
He played 33 minutes and produced four points, three rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal while he played stellar defense.
He hit a dagger three-pointer against the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
All of that has led to even more love for Caruso from Lakers’ fans.
“I think now it’s a little less people just like saying my name and calling out,” Caruso said. “I think that now it’s a little more recognizable of achievement. I think they understand that I played a big role in us trying to get to the championship and us winning the championship and I think that’s the thing that people appreciate now. Lakers’ fans were already in love with me, I think, but now I think it’s just kind of doubled over.”
The Lakers were unable to have a parade after winning the championship in October because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but they still found ways to party.
Jared Dudley said the team went to Las Vegas, San Diego and Miami, and that he took his family to Cabo San Lucas for some down time.
“I mean, a lot of 'em just, you know, being intoxicated and having a good time,” Dudley said of stories about the celebrations. “Something that you get but when it's with your brothers.… There's nothing funny, you know, because it's just us. So, it was nothing crazy.
“And that's one thing that's why we want to run it back. You want to run it back because we missed the parade. We missed the Staples, you know, erupt. We didn't get the proper celebration. So only way to do it is hopefully this, hopefully, Pfizer cures everyone in here in June, we win it again and do it the right way.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.