The Lakers are set for an exciting free agency no matter how it plays out. With so many in-house free agents and so many possibilities, there is bound to be plenty of intrigue in the decisions they make.
Even if they simply run it back, they’re keeping a group together that made the Western Conference Finals and have expressed a desire to run it back. Decisions on Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell are going to highlight the Lakers plans, and the latest rumors and reports on both of them could spell good news for those looking to keep the core together.
D’Lo destined to stay in LA?
At different points since acquiring him, it’s felt like Russell was set for a long tenure in his return to Los Angeles and that his days were numbered. As more time has passed since his disappointing performance in the Western Conference Finals, the strong feelings have waned, and it seems more and more like he’ll be back in Los Angeles to start next season.
Dan Woike of the LA Times was the latest to report that in his weekly newsletter.
When league insiders speak about next year’s team, D’Angelo Russell is usually included. He’ll hit unrestricted free agency after a disappointing conference finals, but his value to the Lakers extends beyond the team having his Bird rights, which allows them to re-sign a player while exceeding the salary cap. He had enough big moments in the postseason and in the push to the playoffs, when he wasn’t fighting injuries, for the team to re-sign him.
Part of the equation is also that the market for Russell isn’t very strong. There aren’t many teams with cap space, and a lot of them that do either recently drafted point guards or have that position set moving forward (though, technically, D’Lo is just a ballplayer).
To that point, Jovan Buha of The Athletic also expects D’Lo to be a Laker next year as well.
This doesn’t rule out a trade down the line, and his deal almost certainly won’t be a long-term one. While his series against the Nuggets was frustrating, there were still plenty of good moments both in the postseason and regular season that warrant having him come back and give it another shot with a training camp together.
Reaves won’t be walking away
Every report for months on end has been the same regarding the Lakers and Reaves. They’re going to match any offer sheet that comes their way.
The only deviance from that has been some suggestions that if another team offers the max possible, the Lakers may balk even if just slightly. But the latest report from Marc Stein, longtime NBA reporter, indicates not even that will be true.
The Lakers, league sources say, are a lock to match any offer on Reaves — even if someone signs Reaves to the maximum allowable offer sheet worth nearly $100 million over four years.
The Lakers’ insistence that they will match any offer has not only reportedly softened but may have taken out one of the biggest competitors for Reaves. The Houston Rockets have been the team consistently mentioned as one that is targeting Reaves, but even they may be backing off their pursuit in search of a more realistic target according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.
Reaves still appears to be an option for the Rockets, although word has only grown in league circles about Houston’s chances of prying veteran point guard Fred VanVleet from Toronto.
If this was the Lakers’ approach to the situation from the start, then what a job they’ve done.
Rui Hachimura opts out of FIBA World Cup
While Reaves is set to play for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, Rui Hachimura will not be following suit. On Tuesday, news surfaced that Hachimura had informed the Japanese National Team he would not be competing for them this summer, instead choosing to focus on his NBA career.
Rui Hachimura decided not to play for Japan National Team this summer at FIBA World Cup, JBA has just announced. In a press release, Hachimura says it was a tough decision, but he wants to focus on preparation for the upcoming season and NBA career. https://t.co/Oqc1Cam1Pu— Yoko Miyaji (@YokoMiyajiE) June 27, 2023
There isn’t one approach to being focused on the next season, shown by both Reaves and Rui. The hope is that both are Lakers next season and are at their very best to help the team push for another title.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.