The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of the worst three-year stretch in franchise history, and no one involved with the team has come out looking good. The acumen of the front office has been questioned and there have been reports of discord amongst the team’s ownership.
One of the Lakers’ chief struggles over the last several offseasons has been their inability to recruit marquee free agents. Los Angeles has swung and missed on Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, and didn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant.
During a sit down with ESPN, team president Jeanie Buss discussed those issues, and she thinks the Lakers’ problems in free agency are a bit more nuanced than most think.
“I understand every player is different. When you talk about Carmelo Anthony, and LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevin Durant, the players in our league have an opportunity at some point in their career where they decide where they want to play,” said Buss. “And not only is it about the team, but it's about who they're going to play with and what group of guys they're connected to, and also the city because it's about their family.”
All of those factors have led Buss to believe there is no one specific issue with the Lakers that has kept free agents like the ones mentioned above from joining the team.
“I think each player is different and you can't just say 'oh they're all just foresaking the Lakers,’” said Buss. “I think each individual chose the situation that was right for them. Where the Lakers were at that time wasn't right for any of those guys.”
Buss does believe, however, that the Lakers’ situation is getting more appealing, an appeal that starts with their new head coach.
“I think Luke Walton is the exact right person to coach this young team, he has the enthusiasm and he has a charisma that I don't even think that he knows he has in terms of connecting with people of all different ages,” said Buss. “The time is perfect for him to come in and be part of this franchise and lead these young guys.”
The age of those young guys has probably been a factor for some free agents who didn’t want to sign up to play with a bunch of kids. Buss thinks the Lakers have taken steps to rectify that issue as well by bringing in players like Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov.
“We also have some really good veteran players, the players that we picked up in free agency, and you know, I'm optimistic,” said Buss, who thinks the young players are already showing signs of improvement.
“We're undefeated in summer league, and I know that doesn't mean a lot, but Laker fans are smart, they understand basketball, and they've been selling out the summer league games because they're excited about these young players. So let's give them that opportunity to shine."
The veterans the Lakers added will give their young players an opportunity to do so in a more meaningful environment than Las Vegas Summer League, and Buss says she’s “excited” about the state of the team.
”I think the free agents that we have are exactly the pieces that the Lakers need to get back to Lakers basketball, which is winning.”