The Washington Wizards have no interest in hitting the reset button prior to the 2023-24 season, despite most fans’ cries to do so. That is unless they are forced to pivot dramatically and likely the only way that could transpire is if Kyle Kuzma departs in unrestricted free agency where he will command a nine-figure contract. Washington chose not to sell high on Kuzma at the trade deadline for future draft assets two months ago and are convinced it is best to double down to re-sign the 27-year-old even if they have to outbid other suitors as they have historically had to. After a half-hour exit interview with team president and general manager Tommy Sheppard on Saturday that ended in a dap and hug, Kuzma spoke to the media to put a close on his 2022-23 season where he averaged 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 35 minutes per game over 64 contests. Here were the most notable quotes from the 6-foot-10 forward.
On his priorities during free agency:
It’s not about money. I’m going to get paid regardless anywhere and here, too. It’s about can I come into work everyday and be my best version of myself. Can I help lead guys, can I make other players better, can I light up rooms. All those things matter when you try to be successful. … I am trying to win. I do want to compete at high levels, that’s why I play this game because I’m a junkie and I love it and life’s always better when you’re winning.
Kyle Kuzma on his free agency priorities
"It's not about money. I'm going to get paid regardless anywhere and here, too. It's about can I come into work everyday and be my best version of myself. Can I help lead guys, can I make other players better, can I light up rooms." pic.twitter.com/CLaGJ7IFIn
— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) April 9, 2023
On if his future priorities were satisfied during his time thus far with the Wizards:
100 percent. I’ve grown tremendously in the past two years. Wes, Tommy, Ted, they all gave me this platform to do this and be in this situation.
On his exit interview with Sheppard:
I thought it was good. Tommy has a vision, he has something he’s trying to accomplish here, and he sees me as a very big part to that.
On if he foresees being a Washington Wizard next season:
It’s 100 percent an option. I’m still trying to decompress this season, decompress myself before I even get to that stuff. I’ve had a great time here. I’ve developed my game significantly here and there’s good people here. I’d be a fool to say it’s not an option.
Asked Kyle Kuzma if he foresees re-signing with the Wizards (reasonably qualifies he needs decompression time)
“It's 100% an option. … I've had a great time here. I've developed my game significantly here and there's good people here. I'd be a fool to say it's not an option.” pic.twitter.com/SaYhErAn07
— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) April 8, 2023
On his personal takeaways on the season:
Where I can take my career and the levels I believe I can reach. This year was a really good stepping stone for me to continue to get better. I’ve gotten better every year of my career and I don’t see why over the next four, five years, I can’t keep doing that so realizing that this year. Understanding how much more I can do and I need to do, I’m excited for.
On his future aspirations:
I truly believe that the sky is the limit for me. I’m so irrationally confident in myself that I believe I can be one of the guys in the league, be a top player. I can be better as a leader, I can be better as a man.
On the trio of himself with Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis:
I think it looked good, still didn’t have enough time to fully get going. We live in this world where people who report our game, people who watch our game they believe that 35 games is enough or a season is enough work to see what you have, but it’s really not. … We live in a society where we look at headings instead of context. I definitely thought there was something there for sure.
On his offseason goals to improve his game:
Get as strong as possible, continue to just work on my shooting, and knowledge of the game.
My prediction is after Kuzma enjoys getting wined and dined by a half dozen or more teams once free agency opens in July, he will circle back to Washington requesting a four-year, $120 million deal with a player option and trade kicker that Sheppard will have no real choice but to comply with given ownership’s direction to compete. Kuzma knows that likely when (and not if) Bradley Beal finally asks out of Washington as soon as next trade deadline that he can likely follow suit shortly thereafter.