Before the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns took the court for Game 6 on Thursday, Dennis Schröder was trending on Twitter for all of the wrong reasons.
Just a few hours prior to tip-off, a fan on social media caught that Schröder had removed the Lakers’ name from his Instagram bio. While he re-added it right before the game, he removed it almost immediately the final buzzer, leading many to believe that he had played his last game in Los Angeles.
Schröder’s postgame media availability painted a different picture, though. Coming off of his second consecutive first-round elimination, Schröder made a vow that he would be back to help the Lakers win a championship next season.
“We’re going to be back,” Schröder said. “I’m going to work my ass off to come back here, to give everything, because we owe the fans one. I want to win a championship and I’m going to work my ass off this summer, come back and be me.”
Schröder reportedly turned down a four-year, $84 million contract extension from the Lakers in March and, around that same time, he said that he wanted to test unrestricted free agency. But on Thursday, Schröder clarified that his desire to test free agency has nothing to do with his current situation.
“I read so many things on Instagram,” Schröder said. “At the end of the day, it’s my eighth season in the NBA and I just wanted to make my own decision — one time, to where I can decide where I want to go. Just to say ‘I want to re-sign with the Lakers’ or ‘I want to go somewhere else.’ That’s the only thing.
“The Lakers, they didn’t do nothing to me. They’re great, they got the top-two players, everybody in the locker room is great, so, like I said, I want to be here and win a championship. That’s not even a question.”
Schröder also said that money won’t be the motivating factor in his next contract.
“Of course, you want to be fair, but not everything is about money for me and my family,” Schröder said. “If everything is good, we’re going to come back and win a championship next year.”
At the beginning of the season, it seemed like a no-brainer for the Lakers to bring back Schröder in free agency. Not only were they not going to be able to afford a floor general of his caliber on the open market, but he was providing consistent production as their starting point guard.
It’s still true that the Lakers likely won’t be able to find a like-for-like replacement for Schröder in free agency, but his value probably isn’t the same as it was before because of his disappointing performances in the postseason.
Through six games, Schröder averaged 14.3 points per game on 40% shooting from the field and 30.8% shooting from behind the arc. The lowest point of his Lakers career came in Game 5, where he scored zero points on 0-9 shooting from the field.
Suffice to say, things could have gone better for Schröder in his first season with the Lakers, and he realizes that. But Schröder also views his struggles as an opportunity to learn and grow for next season.
“My first year in OKC was tough,” Schröder said. “I played with Russ and PG. And then my second year, I felt comfortable. Now, I’m in my first year with the top-two players in the world and the best player who’s every played this game, probably, and for me, it’s just about being in a comfort zone, feeling comfortable.
“But I never used anything as an excuse. I just want to be comfortable and figure everybody out. I’m just going to be better, but I still can’t get it in my head that I played with the best player in the world. On the court, off the court, I learned so much already from him and I can’t wait for more with everybody coming back healthy next season, and everybody staying together.”
A lot can change between now and August 2, when the free agency moratorium will begin, but, right now, it sounds like Schröder sees himself as part of the Lakers’ future. We’ll see if Rob Pelinka feels the same way this summer.
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