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This week let’s take a step back and look at the Lakers’ approach to the biggest questions the team is facing, an approach that’s got me hearing the sweet sound of Axl Rose whistling.
Any points for patience?
Another week in the NBA offseason has passed, the Lakers still sidelined when it comes to the moves they want to and need to still make.
The two biggest items on the organization’s plate — LeBron James‘ possible extension and Russell Westbrook‘s future — are still unresolved and without a sense that either (and certainly not both) are imminent.
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Word from James’ first meeting with the Lakers was that it was a positive conversation among the star, his representatives and Lakers’ management. But with no real ticking clock for James to sign a deal because he’s eligible to sign an extension into late June, there isn’t a real sense of urgency.
Whatever he decides, to accept a contract extension or to play out his contract and be an unrestricted free agent next summer, will shape the course of the Lakers’ future. They either continue down this road where they try to build contending rosters around James or they move into the phase where he’s not a member of the team, a fate that’s coming one day no matter what. Any other options, at least for now, seem immaterial.
The Westbrook situation does seem a little more interesting, at least in the sense that the Lakers might have more control than they do in talks with James. The team, after all, could always add more stuff to any trade offers in an effort to unload Westbrook. And depending on what the expectations are in return, they could simply just keep piling on the limited trade assets that they have (pick swaps, second-round picks, etc.).
So far, that’s a road the Lakers haven’t seriously taken, Rob Pelinka plenty of surprising folks around the NBA with his hesitancy to attach multiple draft picks with Westbrook in trade talks.
(Note: Those two firsts might not even be enough to entice Brooklyn to take on Westbrook. And there are the Lakers’ reasons for hesitancy with Kyrie Irving — his vaccination status, injury history and track record of saying he wants to stay somewhere before signing somewhere different — that have already and will certainly further be considered before talking about two firsts.)
Where does that leave the Lakers? Well, it leaves them waiting.
For now, you’ll see things like in Chris Haynes’ report that the team sees pathways to use Westbrook (to build on his 45% three-point shooting from the corners). It’s the right thing to do because the path of least resistance is simply just keeping Westbrook and hanging on to whatever precious remaining assets the Lakers have.
That choice, though, is more of a default than a preference.
If and when Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell get traded, the space to make a Westbrook trade probably opens a little wider with the costs getting cleared. Lakers sources insist they have options beyond the ones that have been reported (Irving, Buddy Hield, Myles Turner and others). Time should better reveal those once the bigger moves get made.
It’s why the Lakers are waiting, their fans itchy for morsels of news and, maybe, some desired resolution.
There’s really nothing to do but sorta wait.
song of the week
It’s pretty wild looking back at GNR, a band I was definitely a little young for at their peak, and remembering how scary they seemed to people like my parents. And now, with the power of hindsight, I kind of view them as a bunch of softies thanks to their ballads and rock operas. This is one of the former — a song that was beautifully covered by Chris Cornell before his death. But since Cornell didn’t whistle, here’s the original, complete with hilarious 80’s rock video (including a snake)!