Kawhi Leonard agreed to sign with the LA Clippers at 10:53 p.m. locally on July 5 in Los Angeles, and by 3:59 p.m. the next day, the Lakers had agreed to terms with Alex Caruso, finalizing a flurry of seven signings in around 17 hours, with two additional ones (Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels) coming before that.
It was clear evidence that the Lakers had a contingency plan they were waiting to execute if Leonard ultimately didn’t pick them and they were left building around “just” LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. And while the players signed over that period of time might be a little biased, they think the team pivoted excellently.
”I love the roster. I love how deep we are. There are so many guys who can start on any other team, but that’s a great problem to have,” said Quinn Cook, who agreed to terms with the Lakers around eight hours after Leonard chose to go elsewhere. “The acquisitions that we’ve got this summer, and also with ‘Bron and Kuz back, and JaVale back, and obviously AD coming here, it’s just so fun.”
And while the Lakers still would have obviously rather ended up with Leonard and sacrificed a little depth when it’s all said and done, there will be benefits to having waves of players to attack teams with, and plenty of guys with different skillsets that can all give the team something different on any given night.
Take the guard spot for example. Need shooting? The Lakers have Cook (a 41.8% 3-point shooter) to space the floor around James and Davis. Prefer defense? The Lakers have Bradley, whose main defensive utility is guarding ballhandlers at the primary point of attack at this point in his career. And if Frank Vogel wants a steady veteran floor general, the team has Rajon Rondo, while Caruso can give them a combination of all of those skills.
“I do feel like with the mixture of guys that we have that our front office was able to put together, it’s going to be good. It’s a great group of guys that can not only help lead each other, but push each other every single day. We have a lot of talented players,” said Bradley, who was signed later in the week after being waived by the Memphis Grizzlies. “It’s just going to be our job to focus on accepting whatever role coach gives us, and going out there and giving that role 100 percent every single night.”
“Obviously LeBron, he can play one through five, so we have so many weapons with him being a primary ballhandler,” added Cook. “We’re just a deep team, a loaded team. I’m just really excited to start getting ready for this run.”
And while it may be easier for players to say they’re excited about competition for minutes in July than it is for them to feel that way should they, you know, eventually lose out on that competition, basically everyone on the roster is saying the right things about just wanting to stay ready to contribute in whatever role they ultimately end up in.
Dudley — whom nearly every new addition has praised for the chemistry and locker room presence he adds to any team — sounds genuinely excited about the roster, running down what he thinks everyone can bring to the table like an over-excited general manager in his introductory conference call with reporters last week.
“The roster is very well put together. Right after the Kawhi decision, (they signed) Danny Green, a multiple-time champion, a 3-point threat,” Dudley said. “Quinn Cook hasn’t even come close to his prime, but you see his confidence in playing through wars in his shot selection, to want to shoot big shots on big stages, in the Finals and at different times throughout the playoffs.
“A guy like Avery Bradley who’s in the prime of his career when it comes to athleticism, and defensively he’s elite. The past few years Kyrie Irving saying he’s the hardest guy to ever defend him. Guys like myself, and then you get guys like Boogie Cousins, a former All-Star, a lot to prove, someone who plays with a chip on his shoulder. I feel like every team has to have a guy who gets under people’s skin and bends the rules a little bit as one would say. You have to have those guys to be able to mix it up at times,” Dudley continued. “Rondo’s IQ and his Hall-of-Fame-type career, and McGee’s athleticism as a guy who can protect the paint.
“I’m not just saying it because it’s my team, most people who’ve seen this team come together see the positives.”
So the Lakers are star-heavy at the top, yes. And yeah, they will only go as far as James and Davis can ultimately take them. But if most of the depth signings on the supporting cast can live up to their potential and use the attention sucked in by their star teammates to capitalize on the ensuing easy opportunities and play better than the sum of their parts, then they’ll justify the team’s internal excitement about this roster.
We won’t know if they can do so for a few more months, but even in the dog days of July, they’re already chomping at the bit to get started.
“Just to be a part of it, I’m excited to come to work every day and watch and contribute. I’m just excited,” Cook repeated for emphasis. “Practices will be fun, our scrimmages will be fun and competitive, and we’ll all be happy for each other. We’ll all make each other better. It’s going to be an exciting season.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.