It’s been an unpleasant start to the season for the Lakers, to say the least. In addition to a poor record, the team has had to deal with LeBron James subtweeting the front office after the first game of the year and a firestorm around Russell Westbrook’s comments about being benched during the preseason.
And yet, despite the national embarrassment the Lakers are currently living, the public party line is that the front office doesn’t want to make any significant moves until the 20-game mark. Privately, however, the Lakers already seem to be realizing the error of their ways. Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the team has kept up its trade conversations with other teams:
It’s not that Pelinka hasn’t searched for the big one now. According to rival executives, the Lakers have pitched two, three and four-team trade packages throughout the summer and fall, grasping at the panacea that brings in two or three difference-makers in one swoop.
We’ve heard the outlines of two-team trades with Indiana, Utah, and San Antonio. A three-team trade was floated when it appeared the Lakers could help eat some of the salaries in a Jazz/Knicks Donovan Mitchell deal. A four-team trade honestly seems a little too complicated considering the Lakers’ paucity of assets — remember, every team has to touch for a multi-team NBA trade to be legal — but no harm in trying to be creative, I suppose.
In one sense, it’s good that the Lakers are still trying to take the big swing that course corrects a disastrous 2021 offseason and gives this current squad a fighting chance going forward. But, it’s already way too late. If the Lakers thought they were being extorted in the summer when there was still a glimmer of hope of Westbrook fitting into Darvin Ham’s system, they’re completely over a barrel now given the team’s 0-3 record and general bad vibes after a blown late lead Sunday.
Shams Charania reported Monday that as the Lakers continue trade talks around the league, “Teams are viewing the Lakers in a state of desperation.” The Lakers may have hoped that the start of the season would put other front offices in a bind, forcing them to make rash moves. Instead, L.A. is the team that has seen its fortunes fall to start the year, allowing the rest of the league to raise the prices in any deal.
There doesn’t seem to be any way out for this team other than a Westbrook trade — though any missed games from the point guard could test the theory of how the Lakers would perform if they simply sent him home — so at some point, the front office will have to suck it up and make a move, even if the cost is painful. The Lakers wouldn’t have been working the phones all this time to stand still now.