With LeBron James committed to the Los Angeles Lakers for at least three years and potentially beyond that, and given the additions the Lakers have made since earning that commitment, many are wondering whether the team is punting on this season to maintain flexibility for a star-studded 2019 free agent class.
Rob Pelinka is having none of that, as he told Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell:
“When LeBron chose to come to the Lakers that was the next step in our ultimate journey to win the next championship for the Lakers franchise, and there is work to be done. We’re not going to quit, we’re not going to rest, we’re not going to stop working, and I think having that flexibility to continue to build the roster next July (is good), but we’re not looking to next July, we’re looking to next season when training camp opens.
“I was with Lonzo today, he had a very successful scope on his knee. We’re really excited to have that behind us and he’s in a great space. We’re really thinking about camp, and why not try to compete to win a title next year. That’s got to be our focus.”
Pelinka’s implication is that competition in training camp might jump-start the improvement needed across the roster to compete at a level typically expected of a LeBron-led team.
This is really the foundation of the Lakers’ plans.
In order to create a culture of sustainable success beyond making seismic personnel acquisitions, the Lakers are going to need Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and the rest of the team’s youth to come as close to reaching their potential as they can. If there’s a player in the entire league to help make that happen, it’s James, but it’s absolutely critical that this development occurs.
There is probably no reality where the Lakers seriously contend for a title in James’ first season on the team. It takes time to build chemistry in the best of situations, after all. But Pelinka has no choice but to say that this is the team’s goal, and as they say, if you aim for the moon, you might land on a star.