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Rob Pelinka says breaking up 2020 championship team was ‘risk’ for Lakers that ‘didn’t work’

Three years removed from winning an NBA title, Rob Pelinka acknowledged his mistake in breaking up the Lakers title-winning team.

2020 NBA Finals - Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that less than three years ago, the Lakers were celebrating a title in the bubble in Orlando. A roster built on the fly in free agency the summer prior, the Lakers looked to have struck gold.

But after a failed 2020-21 season, the Lakers seemingly panicked in the offseason and broke the core of the title-winning team up for Russell Westbrook. As Lakers fans have experienced firsthand, it didn’t work and it wasn’t until this February before that mistake was corrected.

Vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka is fully aware of how things played out. On Thursday during his media availability alongside head coach Darvin Ham, Pelinka was asked about his decision to break up the 2020 team and if it was a decision he has since learned from.

“Every off-season, every season you go through is it’s a process of learning and discovery,” Pelinka said. “I think any championship executive in any sports has done some things perfectly and has done some things where they’ve taken a risk and it hasn’t worked out. I think your job as an executive or any sports executive is if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out the way that you thought, you’ve got to fix it.

“And I think, thankfully as a group, collectively, as an organization, we obviously took a risk, we changed the way our roster was constructed. It didn’t work but we fixed it and that’s our job and I’m grateful that together we were able to get it right, get it right last year and hopefully improve on that going into this year.”

On one hand, it was a pretty terrible risk that everyone basically predicted would not work in trading the core for Westbrook. It wasn’t a good fit even in theory and it was hard to find any way that it would be successful.

On the other hand, Pelinka and co. found their way out of the mess. They admitted defeat pretty early on, waited for the right deal and pulled the trigger to completely reshape the team. There was no sunk cost fallacy and the Lakers abandoned ship.

Ultimately, not making the mistake is ideal, obviously, but not being too stubborn to admit the mistake is at least the preferred outcome in that situation.

The other key is to learn from those mistakes and not make them again. That part is not something we’ll know if Pelinka learned from in the short term. The early signs are good as he has routinely committed to this successful core over the last year, not blowing it up for Kyrie Irving and signing nearly everyone to long-term deals after a deep playoff run.

Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a trend and that Pelinka and the front office have learned from those mistakes and are improving going forward.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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