Why Kuzma embraced Avdija after missed layup


With under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter of the Wizards' win over the Celtics on Wednesday night, Kyle Kuzma found second-year forward Deni Avdija for a good look at the rim on a fastbreak play. Avdija tried to avoid Marcus Smart, who clipped him on the arm as he sailed by, but still left Avdija with an open look for a layup.

Avdija missed and, though he was ensured two free throws, he walked down the baseline in frustration. He covered his face with his hands, knowing he could have added another point to the Wizards' narrow lead. 

Kuzma immediately walked over to Avdija and put his hands on each side of his face. He embraced him in what he later described as a moment of leadership; a veteran trying to support a young player.

"We're out there just having fun, you know what I mean? You miss something, it's human nature you're going to be down on yourself," Kuzma said. 

"I think it's very, very important especially when you have young players to keep them level-headed and keep them sane out there. Just relax a little bit. He had an opportunity for the easy dunk and go for the and-1 and missed it. It's okay, it happens."

Avdija would then knock down both free throws to grow the Wizards' lead from three to five. They would later win 116-107 to move to 3-1 on the season.

Kuzma has spoken about his goals to become more involved as a leader now that he's in Washington. He spent the first four years of his career with the Lakers, the last two with LeBron James as his teammate. With James and others like Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo, he settled into a secondary role where he had to defer to those guys both on and off the court.


But now he's in a new place and one of the most experienced players on the Wizards. He believes he has a wealth of knowledge to share with young players like Avdija, who is 20 years old.

Avdija, the ninth overall pick in 2020, has a tendency to show his frustration after a missed shot or when he gets called for a foul on defense. Kuzma has seen that and thinks he can help.

"It's important for the team and camaraderie. It's important to uplift guys and keep them positive," Kuzma said.