The Los Angeles Lakers' issues getting top free agents to sign on the dotted line over the past several years have been well documented on every corner of the internet. Those struggles were a big part of the reason Lakers president Jeanie Buss ultimately felt compelled to move on from Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.
Those optimistic that their replacements, Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson, can do better aren't alone. The former went on “The Vertical Podcast with Woj” Thursday and explained why he feels as though the Lakers should be an appealing destination for prospective free agents.
“This analytic was compelling,” Pelinka said. “More Lakers jerseys have been sold in the world than all other 29 teams combined. Listen, if I'm a player and I'm thinking about my future, and I'm thinking about the megawatt power of the Lakers' brand, all the powder keg of relationships you can form in LA, with entertainment moguls, the legacy of excellence and championships here that the Buss family is going to continue to provide, Magic Johnson's vision, hopefully some of my expertise in trades and managing the cap.
“All of those things combined, I think if I'm an NBA player and I'm seeing that, I think 'Wow that's a package that I could put my trust in. That's a promise that looks really, really promising,’” Pelinka continued. “We've got to do the work, we've got to continue to create that platform. But we feel strong that we're already doing that and that it's headed in the direction it needs to be."
It’s obviously still early, and the Lakers won’t know how truly appealing they are to available players until the summer, but Pelinka says the early indications he’s been getting from agents are promising.
"The first two or three weeks have been so encouraging, because both Magic and I have talked to most of the top agents, and the feedback we're getting is there feels like a fresh start,” Pelinka said. “It feels like a new leadership team with a new vision and people are excited about hopefully becoming a part of that.
“At the end of the day, we know how important it is to have good relationships with these agents that represent these players and we want to build really strong bridges. I think having done that for almost 20 years, the word I keep coming back to is the word empathy. I've walked in their shoes, I know what it's like, I know what their clients are looking for in a team to partner with and that's helpful for us to meet those needs,” Pelinka continued “So far, we're very optimistic that those relationships are being strengthened and that we're going to have a shot to change what's happened in the last two or three seasons with future free agent classes."
The Lakers could create enough cap space to offer a maximum contract in free agency fairly easily this offseason, so if agents and players are enamored with their leadership change enough to sign there will be put almost immediately to the test.
Coming off a season in which they’ll likely finish with either the second or third-worst record in the NBA, fans shouldn’t hold their breath for Los Angeles to make a huge splash this summer, but Pelinka improving relationships with agents and selling players on why being on a team like the Lakers still matters in terms of jersey sales and such could go a long way towards helping them rebuild down the line.