Following a generally well-received trade deadline, the Lakers front office is seemingly in a good place with the fanbase after a rocky start to the season in that respect. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were all smiles on Thursday after taking a big step toward the future, which they’re hoping is filled with big name free agents and their existing young talent.
General manager Rob Pelinka hopped on the ESPN LA’s “Mason and Ireland” show to talk about his expectations for the Lakers heading into the All-Star break and he mentioned something that has been in the back of fans minds over the past weeks in light of their recent success: playoffs.
“The last I checked the standings I think we’re still five or six wins back from being right in the mix and we’d like to look at these two road games that we have against the Pelicans and the Timberwolves and say ‘Hey, let’s try to get two road wins, go into All-Star break and if we’re still a stones throw away, why not chase that eighth spot and see if we can get close?’ We have a great group, these guys are growing. For our young players to be able to have that as a target, let’s just stay locked into it and see what happens,” Pelinka said.
Pelinka is right about the Lakers being six wins out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but they’re also six games back in the loss column. In order to end the season with a .500 record, the Lakers would have finish the season with just nine losses and 18 wins and hope that teams like the Utah Jazz, who are on a league-high nine-game winning streak, cool down drastically.
Is it possible? Sure, especially if the team continues to develop the way they have over the past moth, but is it probable? Hardly.
Besides, playoffs are the last thing head coach Luke Walton wants his young team thinking about in the midst of their best run as a team (10-5 in their last 15 games).
“We don’t need those distractions,” Walton told NBC LA’s Shahan Ahmed following the Lakers’ blowout win against the Thunder on Thursday. “Just stay locked in on whatever game is next. And at the end of the day, if we [make the playoffs], we have a better chance anyways as opposed to talking about it, ‘Oh shoot, we lost three straight.’ Now it’s a distraction. ‘Are we out of it again?’
“It’s a goal, I think, every team has, but that was never something we talked about much,” Walton continued “It was all about getting better and developing our culture and our habits.”
Only time will tell if the Lakers can mess around and make the playoffs, but it would be a big surprise if they did, to say the least.