Los Angeles has always been home to plenty of stars, but there haven’t been any major on-court ones for the last several years. Yes, Kobe Bryant was a “star” in the celebrity (and contract) sense the last couple of seasons, he just wasn’t one from a production standpoint.
Most can easily recall the rejections of the last few summers. Carmelo Anthony ultimately chose to take a bigger payday to remain with the New York Knicks, while LaMarcus Aldridge ultimately rejected the Lakers’ (bungled) first pitch as well as their second, more basketball-centric make-up meeting to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.
Former Oklahoma City forward (and cream of the 2016 free agency crop) Kevin Durant didn’t even meet with the Lakers before deciding to take his talents to the Golden State Warriors.
Those public rejections make some of the information in Zach Lowe of ESPN’s latest report a confirmation of what most already knew:
Tweaks giving teams an edge in re-signing their own free agents will make it harder for L.A. to snare stars away. Lakers exceptionalism has flat-lined, anyway. Stars barely considered them over the past few summers. Beyond L.A., the pitch of, "Be the missing piece for our vaguely interesting .500-ish team of young guys!" hasn't appealed; stars shrugged and chose the Spurs and Warriors.
Well that’s not great, even if it’s also not shocking. But at least having veterans helped their case, right?
The disastrous deals for Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng will make it hard for the Lakers to fit even one max-level deal signed after 2017, and almost impossible to absorb two. (The Lakers badly overpaid for Deng; Washington had traction with Deng on a three-year deal worth $20 million less overall than L.A. ended up paying, and was stunned to learn of L.A.'s offer, according to several league sources.)
The note on the recently resurgent (but still overpaid) Luol Deng is notable, because it’s surprising how far the Lakers outbid the market for him.
However, while the Lakers may end up struggling to recruit free agents into their more limited than expected cap space, Luke Walton and Mitch Kupchak have said that isn’t their main goal anyway. The Lakers want to rebuild around their developing young core, and they felt Mozgov and Deng would help them accelerate that growth process.
With stars not considering the Lakers, the team chose to go in a different direction. Now we just have to wait and see if their faith in veterans to help their young guys improve pays off.