LOS ANGELES – The Lakers they thought they would get together as a team on Friday to catch a flight to Phoenix for the 7th game of their first series against Suns. Instead, they met at exit interviews to fix a season that had gone awry.
“I think when you don’t meet the goal you’ve set, he has to guide you,” Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka told reporters at a video conference. “It has to be the fuel that drives your passion, and I think we’re going to miss it as a team, which in a way will be part of our motivation and investment in the business to get back to it, and next we start training camp of the year with a strong list.”
In the coming months, Pelinka will oversee a series of decisions surrounding eight players from his team who were supposed to hit freedom, with the ninth, Montrezl Harrell, holding a $ 9.7 million player option that he could choose not to practice to test the market as well.
Although his team finished 7th in the Western Conference and dropped out of the first round, Pelinka reiterated the belief shared by Lakers coach Frank Vogel and superstars. LeBron James i Anthony Davis after LA’s 113-100 defeat in game 6 on Thursday, had their team been uninjured this season, their back-to-back championship offer could have been achieved.
“I am confident that, again, without some unforeseen circumstances this year, we would face the challenges we had to face, to be a championship caliber team,” he said. “So the goal is to try to keep that core group together.”
With more than $ 100 million already hired for four players next season – James, Davis, Kentavisi Caldwell-Pope i Kyle Kuzma – Pelinka was asked if he has a property permit to dive deep into the luxury tax in order to keep some key parts that have been set up for a free agency.
“Jeanie [Buss] and the ownership group has authorized the front office to do one thing, and that is to make a smart list to win the championship, “he said.” I think next year, of course, I hope all our fans will be able to come back and be part of the building, we owe them a job to start the renewal process and have a team of caliber champions who can do special things next year. It’s a passion to drive and there’s a settlement between Jeanie, the front office and the coach. That will always be the goal. “
The goal he set unequivocally: “We have an insatiable desire and passion to bring banner No. 18 here and we are excited about the work we will start tomorrow to do it for our fans and for the organization.”
Pelinka, Vogel and all the players on the Lakers list, except James, Caldwell-Pope and Costas Antetokounmpo spoke to the media as an exit interview since the conclusion of the Suns series.
Shield Dennis Schroder, one of the free agents, said he did not refuse to extend his $ 84 million contract during the regular season, as reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, as a retaliatory measure to engage in trade negotiations for Toronto Raptors‘ Kyle Lowry.
“Let me clarify that first. I didn’t refuse the extension because I was talking about trade,” Schroder said. “I own [basketball] team and in Germany. I try to run my organization in Germany as honestly as possible, but at the end of the day it’s still a job. … That’s what Rob did. He told me a story. He listened to him. The deadline wasn’t right either, but he talked to them to see. … I would also listen to offers. … You don’t know what you can get and see what your options are. “
Schroder said his relationship with Pelinka is very strong because he has an open door policy with the CEO whenever he needs something, and Pelinka bothered about what Schroder brings to the team.
“I think we can all look at Dennis’ job, and he’s an extreme competitor, and that’s on both sides of the ball, ”Pelinka said. “He chases guys, lifts players all over the field, dives for loose balls, bringing that energy into the defensive end, and of course he has that ability to score in the rush hour. We appreciate those qualities in him. August is August and the free agency is a couple of months away. We’re going to have to evaluate a lot of different things there, but Dennis is an attractive player to us just because of what he brings to the table. ”
Andre Drummond started 27 games for the Lakers after joining a team from the buyout market before winning DNP in Game 6 against the Suns.
“I think I learned so much only in the environment of the coaching staff, our teammates,” Drummond said. “The amazing group of guys we have here. We look forward to building more with them.”
Despite Drummond’s sometimes awkward form and the team leaving him with the season, Pelinka said the decision to sign Drummond – who was his former client during his agents’ time – was not at all wise.
“His ability to bounce the ball and protect the rim and give us athleticism and color size was an essential ingredient that added to the team and something we would do over and over again,” he said.
Harrell and Gasol also talked about their roles in moving forward.
“I came every day and did my job,” Harrell said. “I did what they asked of me. And I played my part, just like that. As for my future, I don’t know what it’s holding right now. We just finished playing last night. I can’t give you that answer right away, bro.”
Gasol, who occasionally publicly advocated for his role, said he found peace in the team’s collective struggle, recognizing that he wasn’t the only one in LA trying to make things work.
“I’m very grateful for the year I’ve spent,” said Gasol, who, unlike Harrell and Drummond, is in contract with LA for next season. “Obviously I know it doesn’t end the way we all want it to, but you know, it was better for me personally than it looked from the outside. I just enjoyed some of the things that happened. Some other things I didn’t, but I tried to be positive and, as I said, I am grateful for the opportunity I had here. “
Vogel is entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed to coach the Lakers in the summer of 2019. He did not want to discuss whether he has begun extension negotiations with the team.
“I really prefer these conversations to remain private,” he said. “Obviously I like it here. I love this organization. And, you know, I hope to be Laker for life.”
Meanwhile, Pelinka gave him a heartfelt confirmation. “Frank is the guy who ‘s Kurt [Rambis] both me and the front office really enjoy working with it doing really great with all of our players and we certainly see it as a strong part of our future, ”he said.
While it seemed to be launching next year with a similar core of wishes from many involved in the team – including key stakeholders in the decision-making process in James and Pelinka – the Lakers forward Markieff Morris hinted that there were bad apples that had to be shaken off the tree.
“The way I feel is that we have to have guys there who are brought in to win,” said Morris, who is also a free agent and said he hopes to return. “Sacrificing everything it takes to win. Being in the lineup, being out of the lineup. Don’t shoot, shoot. Here we need guys who have been tested in battles. Here we need guys 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’re coming in here to be role players Be the best in your role And that’s what we need Next year I think we need to have that camaraderie that we had our championship year to win it – to try to win it again next year. “
A Lakers veteran Jared Dudley, who has just finished his 14th season and will soon turn 35, said he wants to return to his role as locker room and glue manager next year, although he missed most of last season with a torn MCL. “A thousand percent,” he said. “Come on, I need me, man. I need me as much as I need them. Come on.”