The Lakers tried to trade Dennis Schröder in the lead-up to the trade deadline on Thursday as they chased a deal for Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. That much is not in dispute.
Why did they do it? Reportedly because they’re “far apart” in negotiations on a contract extension with Schröder, leading them to test his value on the trade market.
In the end though, the Lakers opted to keep their starting point guard, leaving an important question in the aftermath: Did being dangled in trade talks change his view of the Lakers at all, or alter his willingness to either sign an extension or re-sign with them in unrestricted free agency this summer?
“I mean, it’s a crazy business,” Schröder said. “At the end of the day, I want to play my season out. I said that I want to see my options. I for sure want to be a Laker, but I still want to see my options.”
Does that seem like a change from Schröder’s previous stance, when he’s repeatedly said he wants to sign an extension with the Lakers? Well, he says it’s not.
Let him explain.
“After eight years, it’s my first time seeing what other people, other clubs have interest in me. That’s what I said too, but nobody mentioned that in the media. Everybody’s saying I just want to sign long-term with the Lakers,” Schröder said.
Another reason Schröder may want to head to free agency that he didn’t say out loud? If he really wants more than $20 million a year, as was reported on Thursday, the Lakers can’t give him that right now, as I broke down in my story on that report:
Additionally, if Schröder wants more than $20 million a year, the Lakers literally can’t give him that right now. As our own Sabreena Merchant covered earlier in her explainer on Schröder’s current contract situation from when he became eligible for a larger extension, the Lakers can currently offer him a maximum starting salary of $18.6 million, the total value of which would be approximately $83 million over four years (starting next season).
So if over $20 million annually is something Schröder wants in each year of his deal, he’ll have to wait until the offseason, when the Lakers will have his bird rights and can go over the cap to offer him up to the maximum salary for players of 7-9 years of experience: 30% of the cap, which would be $32 million this season.
DISCLAIMER: I feel comfortable saying there is absolutely zero chance the Lakers will offer Schröder the full max, but that is just to illustrate that they can in theory offer more in the summer than they can right now, giving them more wiggle room in negotiations than exists currently.
And let’s be real: Wanting to see who wants him and wanting to get more money are totally understandable, human reasons for Schröder to want to test free agency this summer. The only problem is that once he’s there, the Lakers could lose him for nothing, and as a team over the cap, they would also have no easy way to replace him. So the two sides finding a middle ground that allows them to remain happy together is an important subplot of this season, and will be something to watch in free agency, the latter of which appears unavoidable now that the two sides have reached enough of an impasse that the team (very publicly) tried to trade Schröder.
Still, for what it’s worth, Schröder claims that he didn’t take the rumors personally. He knows they’re a part of the job he loves.
“At the end of the day we’re playing basketball, and that’s the best job you can have. So wherever you’re doing it, whatever organization you’re in, you’re blessed. My family is healthy, I’ve got two kids, a wife, my family at home in Germany, they’re healthy, so I’m blessed,” Schröder said.
“Wherever I go I’m going to be happy with it. I’m 27 years old, it’s my eighth year, and it’s a business,” Schröder continued. “At the end of the day, I’m happy with what I’m doing. Of course, with the Lakers organization, I understand it’s business, it’s whatever. I own a team in Germany, and (as owner) I’ve got to do the best what’s right for me for sure, but I want to make sure it’s fair for the other players too. And that’s all I say all the time. It needs to be fair for both sides, and I’m going to stay with that.”
That’s hardly a commitment to stay with the Lakers this summer, but it’s also not some evidence that he’s definitely gone. And while extension questions have been fairly commonplace this season, Schröder wants to shut them down moving forward. He’s said what he wants to say and let the public know where he stands, and it seems like he and the Lakers won’t be able to avoid negotiations this summer with an extension now. He’s determined to test the market.
“So at the end of the day, that’s my last word on that,” Schröder said. “I want to see my options, but I want to be a Laker. So however y’all want to put it on Instagram, Twitter, whatever it is, that’s it.”
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