LOS ANGELES – The Lakers thought they would gather as a team on Friday to fly to Phoenix for Game 7 of their first round series against the Suns. Instead, they met for exit interviews to warm up a season that was going wrong.
“I think if you miss the goal you set, it has to drive you,” Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka told reporters in a video conference call. “It has to be the fuel that drives your passion and I think that we will come up short as a team, that will in a way be part of our motivation and invest the work to get it back and start the next training camp. ” Year with a strong squad. “
Over the coming months, Pelinka will oversee a number of decisions related to the eight players on his team that the Free Agency will make.
Despite his team finishing number 7 in the Western Conference and bouncing off the first round, Pelinka reiterated a belief shared by Lakers coach Frank Vogel and superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis after losing 113-100 in Game 6 on Thursday , on which her team would have been injury-free this season, their consecutive championship bid could have been achieved.
“I am confident that without some of the unforeseen circumstances and challenges we faced, we would be a championship-level team this year too,” he said. “So the goal is to try to keep this core group together.”
With more than $ 100 million pledged for four players – James, Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Kyle Kuzma – so far next season, Pelinka was asked if he had the property permit to go deep into the luxury tax, to keep some of the most important sets to meet the free agency.
“Jeanie [Buss] and the ownership group has empowered the front office to do one thing and that is to smartly build a squad to win championships, “he said.” I think next year hopefully when all of our fans can come back. “and be part of that Building, we owe them the work to start the conversion process and have a championship quality team that can do something special next year, that’s the passion of driving and that’s where the coordination between Jeanie, the front office, is right , the coaches. That will always be the goal. “
A goal he clearly formulated: “We have an insatiable desire and an insatiable passion to bring Banner # 18 here. And we look forward to the work we will begin tomorrow to do this for our fans and for the organization.”
Pelinka, Vogel and all the players in the Lakers roster except James, Caldwell-Pope and Kostas Antetokounmpo have spoken to the media in an exit interview since the Suns series closed.
Point Guard Dennis Schroder, one of the prospective free agents, said he had not turned down a $ 84 million contract extension during the regular season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported, in retaliation for participating in trade talks for the Toronto Kyle Lowry the raptors.
“Let me clarify that first. I did not refuse the extension because I was in trade talks,” said Schröder. “I own a [basketball] Team in Germany too. I try to run my organization in Germany as fair as possible, but in the end it’s still about business. … Rob did too. He told me the story. He listened to it. It wasn’t even close to trading, but he spoke to them to see. … I would also listen to offers. … you don’t know what to get and you see what your options are. “
Schroder said his relationship with Pelinka is very strong and has an open house policy with the manager when he needs something, and Pelinka raved about what Schroder brings to the team.
“I think we can all look at Dennis’ work and he’s an extreme competitor on both sides of the ball,” said Pelinka. “He chases boys, picks up players from all over the field, dives for loose balls, puts that energy on the defensive and of course he has the ability to score points in the point guard position. We appreciate those qualities about him. August is August , and the free agency is still a few months away. There are a lot of different things we have to evaluate there, but Dennis is an attractive player to us just because he comes to the table. “
Andre Drummond started 27 games for the Lakers after joining the team outside of the buyout market before receiving a DNP in Game 6 against the Suns.
“I think I learned so much just being around the coaching staff, our teammates,” said Drummond. “Just an amazing group of people that we have here. We look forward to building more with them.”
Drummond’s addition broke a center rotation that already had two newbies at Harrell and Marc Gasol who were added to replace JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
Despite Drummond’s sometimes uncomfortable fit and the team leaving him with the season at stake, Pelinka said the decision to sign Drummond – who was a former client of his during his agent days – was a no-brainer.
“His ability to ricochet the ball, protect the rim and give us athleticism and size in color was an integral part of complimenting the team and something we would do again and again,” he said.
Harrell and Gasol also discussed their future roles.
“I came in every day and did my job,” said Harrell. “I did what you asked me to do. And I played my part, very easy. As for my future, I don’t know what that will bring at the moment. We just finished playing last night that answer now, brother. “
Gasol, who at times publicly complained about his role, said he had found peace in the team’s collective struggle and realized that he wasn’t the only one in L.A. trying to make things work.
“I’m very grateful for the year I’ve lived,” said Gasol, who, unlike Harrell and Drummond, is under contract with L.A. for the next season. “I know it obviously doesn’t end the way we all want it to, but for me personally it was probably better than it looked from the outside. I just enjoyed some of the things that happened, I didn’t, but I tried to be positive and like I said, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had here. “
Vogel is entering the final year of his three-year contract, which he signed as coach of the Lakers in the summer of 2019. He did not want to discuss whether he had started extension talks with the team.
“I really prefer these conversations to be private,” he said. “Of course I love it here. I love this organization. And you know, I hope to be a Laker for a lifetime.”
In the meantime, Pelinka has given him warm confirmation. “Frank is a guy that Kurt is [Rambis] and I and the front office really enjoy working with it, it does a great job with all of our players and we certainly see it as a strong part of our future, “he said.
While buffeted with a similar core the next year, what seemed like the desire of many on the team – including key players in the James and Pelinka decision-making process – Lakers forward Markieff Morris pointed out there were some bad ones Apples being shaken from the tree.
“I feel like we need to have people brought in to win,” said Morris, who is also a free agent and hopes to return. “To sacrifice everything it takes to win. To be in the line-up, not in the line-up. Don’t get the shot, the shots get. We need people here who are battle-tested. We need people here who have one goal in mind and that is to win the championship. When you’re on a team with LeBron and AD, you know you come here to be a role player. Be the best at your role. And that’s it what we need. Next year I think we have to. We have this camaraderie that we had in our championship year to win it – to have the chance to win it again next year. “
Lakers veteran Jared Dudley, who has just finished his 14th season and will turn 35 next month, said he plans to return to his locker room operator and glue guy role next year, despite having spent most of the previous season with a ripped one MCL missed. “A thousand percent,” he said. “Come on, you need me, man. You need me as I need you.