In just three weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers will play their final game of the NBA regular season and once the final buzzer sounds at Staples Center on April 9, the team will start their offseason.
While there won’t be any splashy moves in April, there will be discussions about the upcoming summer starting with the NBA Draft on June 20 and, shortly after that, free agency, where the Lakers will be looking to pair LeBron James with another All-Star player. However, before they go chasing stars, the team has some business to take care of internally.
Eight of the 16 players on the Lakers’ active roster will hit unrestricted free agency next summer, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala, Tyson Chandler, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams. In other words, half of team will be playing for their next contract over these last 11 games.
To some guys, that might mean playing a little harder than usual, but Josh Hart doesn’t think that’s what should get players going. Following the Lakers’ loss to the Bucks on Monday, Hart had some strong thoughts on players using their upcoming free agency as a reason to play well (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I mean, we get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need motivation for that. You’re supposed to love doing this. At the end of the day this is a game that’s helped so many of us… If you can’t get motivated for that at the end of the day — whether it’s contract, trying to get your money, trying to get a playoff spot, whatever it is — if you’re not motivated to play basketball, you shouldn’t be in the game.”
It should be noted that Hart is on a rookie contract that is guaranteed through next season, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from his point.
Rondo, who is actually a free agent, shared a similar sentiment, saying that looking too far ahead into the future can actually be detrimental to a player (via Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register):
“We play with pride, and we haven’t been able to get the outcome we want, but contracts will be there,” he said. “But if you start thinking about contracts, you turn into a selfish player. So we just try to go out there and have fun, continue to play hard and play for one another.”
It’s going to be interesting to see who the Lakers keep from the existing group in free agency, assuming they keep anyone. Until then, the players on the team will have to keep trying to play the right way and hope that gets them somewhere this summer.