Free falling Los Angeles Lakers unable to make moves ahead of trade deadline


LOS ANGELES — Despite the Lakers looking nothing like the championship contender they were built to become and free falling in the standings, losers of six out of their last eight games, L.A. did not pull the trigger on any moves at the trade deadline Thursday.

“We were aggressive in a lot of conversations trying to improve this team,” Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said on a video conference call after the deadline had passed. “We always want to put this team in the best position to win a championship, but ultimately didn’t find a deal that had net positive effect for sort of the short-term success of the team and the long-term. And those are both things we consider.”

Frustration is mounting within the Lakers’ locker room. Tuesday’s loss to the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks caused sources within the team to admit to ESPN that the roster is not working and changes were seen as essential to get the team back on course.

Pelinka, as has been his standard operating procedure since L.A. signed LeBron James and traded for Anthony Davis with him in the front office, said the two captains were consulted on potential deals on Thursday. The pair understood the moves L.A. was unable to make and the deals the team chose to walk away from because of the asking price, according to the GM.

“You can’t force another team to present yourself with a deal that is going to make your team be better. That’s up to them,” Pelinka said. “And throughout this process we had different things we looked at and like I’ve done in the past had conversations with LeBron and Anthony about it and I would say there’s alignment here. And that’s all that matters.”

The Lakers engaged the Houston Rockets in discussions centered around a Russell WestbrookJohn Wall swap that stalled with the Rockets expressed interest in further compensation beyond the 2017 league MVP, sources told ESPN. L.A. also had traction on a three-team deal involving the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks on Wednesday, that would have involved trading away third-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker, but that also fell apart because of draft picks that would have needed to be included, sources told ESPN.

Westbrook, who has been benched in late-game situations three times in as many weeks, will now have to find a way to be effective in the final stretch of the season if L.A. will have any hope of making a postseason run.

Pelinka likened Westbrook’s situation to what his former client, Andre Iguodala, went through when he first joined the Golden State Warriors and had to adjust from being an All-Star earlier in his career in Philadelphia to becoming a high-level role player on a championship team.

“I’ve had several conversations with Russ since we acquired him in the trade and really appreciated those,” Pelinka said. “As everybody knows, Russ is a big-hearted individual. He wants to win. And he knows we, with players as impactful and influential on the court as Anthony and LeBron are, it’s going to require sacrifices in his game and how he plays.”

It remains to be seen how the trade deadline process will play out on Westbrook’s psyche. He was held out of the lineup on Wednesday after playing in all 55 of L.A.’s games up to that point because the team said he was dealing with lower back tightness. A team source on Wednesday told ESPN he would like to see the Lakers “rip the Band-Aid off” and trade Westbrook out of town in order to get the season back on track.

Of course, no trade occurred. Pelinka was asked if he believed the Westbrook trade – in which L.A. sent Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a first round pick to the Washington Wizards in order to acquire the point guard and two second round picks back in June — could still end up being viewed as a success.

“I think if you took any three All-Stars in the NBA and your body of work was 15 games, I think that would probably be a small number of games to make any ultimate conclusions on,” Pelinka said.

James, Davis and Westbrook have only played 18 games together this season, with L.A. going 10-8. Overall, L.A. 26-30, currently No. 9 in the Western Conference, four games ahead of No. 11 Portland, which is the gap assuring itself at least a play-in tournament spot. The Lakers are also five games behind No. 6 Denver, which is the team they would need to catch to avoid the play-in and earn an automatic playoff bid.

Pelinka said that L.A. will look to improve by monitoring the buy-out market. The Lakers have a full 15-man roster already, and so if they find a buy-out target, they would need to waive a player in order to create an open spot to accommodate the new piece.

“I think the important thing there is that we have the full support of [Lakers owner] Jeanie [Buss] and her family to make the team better if we see opportunities to do that,” he said.

And if L.A. ends up standing pat with its roster from here, just like it did at the trade deadline, Pelinka said every member of the organization has to pull together to turn things around.

“If you’re not having success or if you reach a hard period, you’ve got to look in the mirror and you’ve got to work harder and you’ve got to be better for the person next to you,” he said. “And I think that’s all of us. Whether it’s myself, whether it’s a coach, whether it’s a player: Look in the mirror, be better, play harder, care more about the guy next to you. Those are all things that we can do.”

Source : ESPN