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Rob Pelinka discusses possibility of LeBron retiring, NBA free agency in ESPN interview

Rob Pelinka explained why the Lakers were “excited” to see a recent LeBron James Instagram post about the team’s NBA free agency additions and more during a broadcast appearance on ESPN.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

During the Lakers103-96 win over the Golden State Warriors to open Las Vegas Summer League on Friday, general manager Rob Pelinka made his annual appearance on the ESPN broadcast of the game to discuss a variety of topics, but mainly what the team did in NBA free agency, as well as the fact that LeBron James still hasn’t officially confirmed he is not retiring (he is not retiring).

Below are three of the most notable quotes, with some brief thoughts and analysis on each.

On the possibility of LeBron retiring

Rob Pelinka: “Well, we’ll always let LeBron speak for himself, but we were all excited to see his Instagram post the other day where he was giving love to his new teammates, and the great leader he is doing the behind-the-scenes work to get things ready for the season.”

For anyone who missed what Pelinka is referring to, he meant LeBron posting captionless photos of his new teammates on his (now-expired) Instagram story, presumably welcoming them (in some cases, back) to the team.

All I really have to add here is that Pelinka is a smart man to make sure he never can be perceived as speaking for LeBron, something his star surely appreciates as someone who founded an entire media company dedicated to athletes telling their own stories.

On the team’s addition of Cam Reddish

Pelinka: “You always have to go through the defending champs to get to where we want to go to win another championship. And we got beat by a Denver team that was bigger and longer, and so I think to go out into the free agent market and find a guy like Cam Reddish who is 6’8, 6’9, and can play that three-and-D role; Taurean Prince was another three-and-D wing, we just really wanted to upgrade our size, length, defense and shooting.

“Cam’s journey has been up and down, (but) we have an assistant coach in Chris Jent... He was really with Cam early in his career in Atlanta, and he clicked with him. So he was a big part of Darvin and I wanting to bring him back... We think Cam is going to have a really big season for us.”

Before Chris Jent was lead assistant for the Lakers, he was also a fairly well-regarded player development coach, and so it makes sense he would feel there is still more to get out of Reddish’s thus-far unrealized potential, especially since he has worked with him before. That he wanted to again is also a positive in Cam’s favor, at least in terms of coachability, which is good.

However, before anyone gets too over the moon over Reddish’s three-and-D potential on a minimum contract, I would advise them to read my chat with Dave Deckard of Blazer’s Edge published earlier today. Reddish certainly has the tools to theoretically become that type of player, but that is definitely not who he has been so far. We’ll see if Jent, Phil Handy and the rest of the Lakers’ assistant coaching staff can get him there.

On why the team targeted Jaxson Hayes in free agency

Pelinka: “I remember scouting him when he was at Texas, obviously his dad was an NFL player, and so he has a toughness and an aggression to his game. Coach Ham and I talked a little bit with Anthony (Davis) about going back to the model we had in 2020 when we won a championship where we had guys like Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee playing alongside of AD, and we identified early in the free agent process for us is that Jaxson is that type of player.

“He’s a big kid, rim protector, plays with a high level of energy and he’s also a really good screen setter, so when you have guards like D’Angelo Russell that really want to operate in the pick-and-roll and have Austin Reaves as a secondary ballhandler, we thought Jaxson would be a good fit with those guys with the way he plays.”

I saved possibly the most notable answer for last, because there is a bit to unpack in there.

First of all, if the Lakers are actually planning to play Anthony Davis and Hayes together, that’s extremely noteworthy. In part because that would probably cramp the floor quite a bit offensively — and given Hayes’ issues on that end, won’t necessarily help much defensively, either — but also because it would be another pretty big shift in role from Davis, who played 100% of his minutes at center during the last regular season and playoffs, according to Basketball-Reference.

Is Hayes the player worth going away from that wildly effective identity for? I would hazard a guess he is not.

Now, maybe Rob was just praising Hayes and theorizing that this is something the Lakers could do, not something they necessarily will go to. But if AD/Hayes pairings exit the realm of hypotheticals and become something the team actually does, though, then who the Lakers sign as their third center becomes even more important than it was yesterday, when it already was a pretty big hole on the roster.

If Davis and Hayes are going to play together with any regular frequency, that player goes from being someone who would almost definitely have to play real minutes based on AD’s health history — and Hayes’ history of not being good at NBA basketball for prolonged periods of time — to someone that would definitely have to play as the backup big if those two guys are spending stretches of games alongside each other.

We’ll see if the latter is actually the Lakers’ plan, but Pelinka’s comments that they are even considering it felt particularly worthy of highlighting as possibly the first hints of the team’s mindset and direction.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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