In the relatively short term between LeBron James’ postgame press conference after the Lakers Game 4 loss on Monday to the Nuggets and president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka’s exit interview on Tuesday, quite a lot transpired.
For the first time in his career, LeBron tossed out the idea of retirement. Ultimately, the general consensus was that it was a leverage play to try to get the Lakers to make a move this summer, most likely in the form of acquiring Kyrie Irving.
That move is a very unlikely one if for no other reason than it would be a difficult move to even acquire him. But it would also cost the Lakers all the depth they found mid-season that helped them make their run to the Western Conference Finals.
That is important context to keep in mind when taking into account the comments from Pelinka during his exit interview.
“We’re incredibly proud of this group, getting to the Western Conference Finals,” Pelinka said. “After the trade deadline, we had one of the top records in the league. I think keeping that continuity is going to be very important. We ultimately got knocked out by a team that has great continuity.
“That’s a high priority for us. We feel like we have a group of special players in the locker room. They enjoy playing with each other, Darvin enjoys coaching them. We know there’s more growth and improvement in that group, especially if we get a training camp together. So, I would say it’s a high priority to keep our core players together.”
That certainly does not sound like someone interested in blowing up the roster to get Irving. It’s not hyperbole to say they would need to blow up that roster to get him, either. The team would have to likely part with at least one of D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura — and very likely two of those players — in order to acquire Kyrie.
If the Lakers are focused on continuity, bringing in another star at the cost of much of their depth is the antithesis of that. The Lakers have gone down this road before with Russell Westbrook and while Kyrie is certainly a better player, the circumstances are still the same.
The Lakers, and specifically Pelinka, appear to have learned some lessons from past mistakes. When asked about Austin Reaves’ impending free agency, Pelinka noted he can’t discuss that because of tampering rules but did offer the following insightful quote.
“I would say this resoundingly clear, our intentions are to keep our core of young guys together,” Pelinka said. “We saw incredible growth and achievement by Rui (Hachimura), Austin — I could go down the list — Vando, D’Lo. We have a lot of great young players and we want to do our best to fit the puzzle together...Again, without talking specific players, we’ll do our best to keep this group intact and growing and getting better each year.”
These quotes from Pelinka fall in line with everything that’s been reported since the Lakers found their stride with this new team. The Lakers found a bit of lightning in the bottle midway through this season and seem focused now on keeping it moving forward.
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