The Los Angeles’ Lakers’ struggles to recruit top free agents over the last several years have been real, if a bit overstated. The team didn’t sign any major names over the past several years prior to the summer of 2016, when they added Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng at near max money.
The prior several summers, Los Angeles had little to sell outside of the city itself. With a maxed-out and declining Kobe Bryant and little else on the roster (as well as an unappealing coaching situation) it would have been more of a surprise if the Lakers had been able to recruit a superstar than them failing to do so.
Still, perceptions are hard to shake. Lakers head coach Luke Walton does want to shake them, however, and Walton told Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Vertical Podcast with Woj” that he hopes that the new style of play he’s brought to Los Angeles can help entice some free agents to follow:
“I think the NBA’s changed and it’s changed with the amount of media that’s out there now, and the social media. You can play anywhere now and be all over; everyone sees you. It’s gotten to a point where you need to be more than a great organization and have history to get these top-tier players. My number one job here is coaching the players that we have and getting a system in place and developing the young talent that we have. Those are all the things that take priority.
“But yeah, at the same time, we want to set a tone and we want to play with a style and play with an effort that draws people to LA and gets the fans engaged in the game so these superstars coming to play, they see it and say, ‘That looks like a lot of fun to be a part of. I want to be part of that again.’ Hopefully, we’re back on the map with where the top level players want to be at.”
The Lakers can free up enough cap space for a max contract rather easily this offseason, so how appealing other players find the Lakers’ style after watching their unexpected success will be put to the test.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.