While Mitch Kupchak created a title team as general manager with the Lakers, one of his biggest gaffes included the ending of Kent Bazemore’s first tenure in Los Angeles.
The Lakers’ offseason plan of landing a superstar free agent, an unsuccessful one that was repeated over and over, led to them sacrificing other players along the way, Bazemore included. After being acquired in a midseason trade in the 2013-14 season, Bazemore pieced together a strong 23 games for the Lakers, averaging 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 37.1% from the 3-point line.
That made it all the more peculiar when the Lakers did not extend a qualifying offer to Bazemore, instead opting for more cap space to be able to offer Carmelo Anthony a maximum contract in free agency. That pursuit of Anthony failed and, making matters worse, Bazemore left as well, signing with the Hawks on a two-year, $4 million deal.
In a great bit of irony, his return to the Lakers this summer coincides with the Lakers finally landing Anthony in free agency as well. Bazemore spoke on that when he was introduced as a Laker while also revealing being snubbed by the Lakers fueled him.
“It’s funny, you mention that,” Bazemore said in response to him and Anthony signing this summer. “That kind of lit a fire underneath me a little bit back in the day when I used to hold on to those kinds of things before I understood the business side of everything. But I’m just very fortunate to have another opportunity to play in the best league of basketball and one of the greatest organizations in any sport. I played with Carmelo up in Portland.
“But it’s just cool being in a locker room with a bunch of guys that I’ve been playing with for a while, playing against for a while. It’s my 10th season and I’m here to win and I think a lot of guys are. So, I’m looking forward to seeing you know how that all comes into fruition.”
While Bazemore is willing to let the past go now, it wasn’t always the case in his career. When the Lakers pursued Bazemore in 2016 following a breakout in Atlanta, the Old Dominion product made turnabout fair play by snubbing the Lakers based on how he was treated in 2014.
With Kupchak and company out of the front office and a new leaf turned, the hard feelings Bazemore held against the organization faded enough for the two sides to not only come to an agreement this summer but for Bazemore to reportedly take less money to join the franchise.
It’s hard to fault him considering how his free agency was handled in 2014, but seven years later, he figures to finally be an important role player for the Lakers as they pursue a ring, a role some would argue he should have had many years ago.