Kyle Kuzma has found his new agency. The young forward, who had previously been represented by Mark Bartelstein, has reportedly signed with CAA, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. That news, in itself, might not seem particularly significant, but the fact that Kuzma landed with CAA is actually somewhat surprising given their relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers over the past few years.
CAA, and agent Aaron Mintz specifically, represent a number of players who have crossed paths with the Lakers over the past several years. D'Angelo Russell is the most notable example. The former No. 2 overall pick was not only traded in 2017, but criticized by Magic Johnson on his way out the door. "What I needed was a leader," Johnson said after dealing Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. "I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with."
Fellow Mintz client Julius Randle wasn't given the same public treatment, but the Lakers did not make him the lucrative contract offer that he felt he deserved, and he was forced to sign a short-term contract with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Mintz happens to represent several players that the Lakers chose not to retain, but he also represented one of their biggest targets in recent years: Paul George. The star forward was adamant about his desire to join the Lakers prior to being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017. When he reached free agency in 2018, he did not even grant the Lakers a meeting, instead choosing to re-sign with the Thunder as soon as free agency began. A year later, he forced his way to Los Angeles' other team, the Clippers.
Mintz isn't the only prominent agent at CAA to represent a departing Laker, either. Steve Heumann represents both Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. Pau was embroiled in trade rumors in the years leading up to his 2014 departure in free agency. A year later, Marc was set to become the biggest name in free agency, and the Lakers had max cap space to spend. But Mike Bresnahan reported for the L.A. Times that "Marc Gasol has no interest in the Lakers because of the uneasy last few years his brother spent with them, according to numerous people familiar with the situation."
Lonzo Ball signed with CAA this very offseason, choosing Leon Rose as his new agent. Two months later, he was dealt to New Orleans in a package for Anthony Davis. The Lakers did not have a player on their roster represented by CAA prior to this decision by Kuzma. They do, however, have four players on their roster represented by Rich Paul: Davis, LeBron James, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker. Paul worked for CAA before leaving to found Klutch Sports, and many have speculated about potential animosity between the two sides ever since.
That makes Kuzma's decision somewhat surprising. He has done everything in his power to endear himself to the Lakers organization this offseason. When he represented the Lakers at the NBA Draft Lottery, he wore a "hand of the king" pin from "Game of Thrones," indicating fealty to James as leader of the team. He is known to have dined with team owner Jeanie Buss at least once this offseason, and the organization kept him as the sole member of its young core during the Davis trade despite a somewhat questionable fit. When it was reported that Kuzma would leave Bartelstein, who represents fellow Lakers Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels, the overwhelming assumption was that he would land with Paul and Klutch Sports in keeping with his recent behavior.
None of this means that Kuzma is going to leave the Lakers. He is under contract for two more years, and even when his rookie deal expires, he will hit restricted free agency. That gives the Lakers a minimum of three more years of team control, but in all likelihood, they will give him a long-term extension next summer.
Calling this move an olive branch between the two sides would be a bit premature. After all, the last Lakers player to sign with CAA was traded in a matter of months. But Kuzma has made it perfectly clear that he wants to remain with the Lakers for the long haul. That will force the two sides to work together, and potentially ease any lingering tensions over prior disputes.