The year is 2029. The Los Angeles Lakers are heading towards another 30-ish-win season. LeBron James’ son is due to become a free agent and Rob Pelinka is looking forward to the opportunity to have him pass on signing in free agency.
According to the latest
texts from Jeanie Buss and Pelinka report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have realized their master plan is probably a fruitless endeavor and will hold off for the next crop of free agents in 2019.
Here’s how they put it:
The Lakers aren’t abandoning a summer pursuit of stars, but rather recalibrating their focus on a 2019 class that could include San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Klay Thompsonand Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, league sources told ESPN.
The belief has been that the Lakers were cutting an unapologetic path to salary cap freedom for two maximum contract slots this July, clearing the way toward a pursuit of superstars like Cleveland’s LeBron James, Oklahoma City’s Paul George and New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins. Now, Cousins has a torn Achilles tendon, George has suggested to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that the Thunder have an advantage in re-signing him and James is believed to have a reluctance toward signing with the Lakers without an established star immediately joining him.
So, the Lakers will go from hoping James, George and Cousins will leave a winning situation for a losing one to hoping that Leonard will leave the Spurs, Thompson will leave the historically great Warriors and Butler will leave one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA.
Get ready for another season in which Luke Walton must coach a team consisting of either young guys still learning to win the in NBA and vets on short-term deals looking to earn a longer one at season’s end. We know what that looks like. That’s been Lakers basketball for the last half-decade.
Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were fired for this exact plan, but Pelinka and Magic will be praised for feigned flexibility because of their Lakers ties. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson aren’t getting a vote of confidence. They simply haven’t fetched the right deal.
These points have been made before, but they bare repeating. It was stupid to announce and continue announcing the team’s intentions at every single possible turn. It was stupid to trade away a second overall pick to open cap space we’re finding out is unlikely to be used on a star, let alone two. It will continue to be stupid to try to get rich quickly in the insanely competitive NBA and think that somehow the Lakers are above recent trends in free agency. Modern free agents don’t sign to fill cap space alone. They want a winning situation, too. This is not how you build a winning situation.
These are the Lakers. You’d better get used to it. It ain’t changing anytime soon. Not with this leadership and ownership.