It’s hard to believe that the Los Angeles Lakers are less than one calendar year removed from winning an NBA title. In fact, when the Lakers tip-off the 2021-22 season on Oct. 19 against the Warriors, it’ll be 373 days removed from winning the 2019-20 NBA championship inside the bubble in Orlando against the Miami Heat.
In that span of barely more than one year, the Lakers played out an entire NBA season, then completely overhauled their roster this offseason after a disappointing conclusion to the postseason. By the time the one-year anniversary of winning the title comes around on Oct. 11 of this season, only three Lakers — LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker — will be holdovers from the team that won the title.
It was a series of bold moves from general manager Rob Pelinka that led the Lakers to where they are today with regards to their roster with none bolder than acquiring Russell Westbrook. At the press conference to introduce Westbrook as a Laker, Pelinka spoke on the motivations behind such drastic changes to the roster this summer.
“Opportunity,” Pelinka said. “I think it was an opportunity to make an aggressive move that we felt like bettered our probability to bring the 18th title to the Los Angeles Lakers. And when an opportunity like that comes, you’re thoughtful, you analyze it, you look at the pros and cons and then you make a decision. That’s what leaders are tasked to do and we felt like this was an opportunity to maximize our ability to do what we’re obsessed to do and that’s to bring an 18th title to this city.”
Time will tell if the Lakers’ new roster is better than the one that competed last season or the one that won a title. But the Lakers have brought in a host of new weapons, mostly veteran ones, that will complement Westbrook, James and Davis to varying degrees.
A clear emphasis on improving the Lakers’ outside shooting was put in place this summer, though that came at the cost of skill on the other end of the court. After winning a title on the back of a defense anchored by Davis, the Lakers will now place the focus on the other end of the court.
For Westbrook, the familiarity and reshaping of the roster is one of the many reasons he’s excited about the upcoming Lakers season.
“The roster’s great,” Westbrook said at his introductory press conference. “A bunch of guys that I’ve already known previously, which is even better. I’m always interested, as I come into the season, I’m always looking at the roster and figuring out how I can make other guys better. And it’s as simple as that. And I want to be able to leave an impact on people when they either play with me or come across me, obviously in positive way. I’ll find ways to do that with that roster. But I’m really looking forward to getting together with all the guys and figuring it out.”
Pelinka got his due credit for building a championship roster that achieved glory less than a year ago. In his complete overhaul of the roster, he took a risk that will put him directly in the crossfire if it goes poorly...or right back in the spotlight if he’s successful once more.