LOS ANGELES – The Lakers thought they would gather as a team on Friday to catch a flight to Phoenix for Game 7 of their first round series against the Suns. Instead, they met for exit interviews to repeat the season that went wrong.
“I think when you don’t achieve the goal you set for yourself, it should push 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 dropping out as a team, which in a sense will be part of our motivation and we’ll work hard to get back to it and start a training camp next year with strong list. “
In the coming months, Pelinka will control a number of decisions related to the eight players on his team who will be released, and the ninth, Montresal Harel, has a $ 9.7 million player option that he can choose not to practice to test. and the market.
Although his team finished No. 7 in the Western Conference and received a rebound from the first round, Pelinka reiterated the conviction shared by Lakers coach Frank Vogel and superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis after losing Los Angeles 1
“I am convinced that again, without some of the unforeseen circumstances this year, the challenges we had to face were that we would be a team of champion caliber,” he said. “So the goal is to try to keep this core group together.”
With more than $ 100 million already committed to four players next season – James, Davis, Kentavid Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma – Pelinka was asked if there was property approval to dive deep into the luxury tax to keep some of the key figures to hit the free agency.
“Ginny [Buss] and the group of owners empowered the front office to do one thing, and that is to build a smart roster to win championships, “he said.” I think that next year, of course, I hope that with all our fans to be able to come back and be part of the building, we owe them the work to start the process of reconstruction and to have a team of champion caliber that can do special things next year. This is the driving passion and there is a correspondence between Jeanie, the front office and the coaches. That will always be the goal. “
A goal he set out in unequivocal terms: “We have an insatiable desire and passion to bring here a banner № 18. And we are excited about the work we will start tomorrow to do this for our fans and the organization.”
Pelinka, Vogel and all the players on the Lakers roster, other than James, Caldwell-Pope and Costas Antetokumpo, spoke to the media as an interview to leave the end of the Suns series.
Defendant Dennis Schroeder, one of the free agents, said he did not refuse to extend his contract for $ 84 million during the regular season, as reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in retaliation for his inclusion in the Toronto Raptors trade talks Kyle Lowry.
“Let me clarify this first. I did not refuse the extension because I was in trade negotiations,” Schroeder said. “I own a [basketball] team in Germany. I try to run my organization in Germany as honestly as possible, but in the end it’s still business. … That’s what Rob did. He told me the story. He listened to him. It wasn’t even right until the deadline, 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. “
Schroeder said his relationship with Pelinka is very strong, he has an open door policy with the CEO when he needs something, and Pelinka is silent about what Schroeder brings to the team.
“I think we can all look at Dennis’ work and he’s an extreme player and that’s on both sides of the ball,” Pelinka said. “He chases boys, lifts players on a full court, dives for loose balls, carries that energy to the defensive end and, of course, has that ability to put in the keeper’s position. We appreciate those qualities in him. August is August, and the free agency is a few months old. There are many different things we will have to appreciate there, but Dennis is an attractive player for us just because of what he brings to the table. “
Andre Drummond started 27 games for the Lakers after joining the team outside the buy-out market before receiving DNP in Game 6 against the Suns.
“I think I learned so much just by being among the coaching staff, our teammates,” Drummond said. “Just an amazing group of guys we have here. We look forward to building more with them.”
Drummond’s addition disrupted the center’s rotation, which already had two newcomers to Harel and Mark Gasol, who were added to replace JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
Despite Drummond’s sometimes awkward form and the team that left him with the season on the line, Pelinka said the decision to sign Drummond – who was his former client during his agency days – was a hassle.
“His ability to bounce the ball and defend the rim and give us athleticism and size in the paint was a key ingredient to add to the team and something we would do over and over again,” he said.
Harel and Gasol also talked about their roles ahead.
“I went in every day and did my job,” Harel said. “I did what I was asked to do. And I played my role, just like that. As for my future, I don’t know what’s going on right now. We just finished playing last night. I can’t give you that answer right now, brother . “
Gasol, who sometimes took part in public roles, said he had found peace in the team’s collective struggle, acknowledging that he was not the only one in Los Angeles trying to make things work.
“I’m very grateful for the year I’ve lived,” said Gasol, who, unlike Harel and Drummond, has a contract with Los Angeles for next season. “I know it obviously doesn’t end the way we all want it to, but you know, it was better than it looked from the outside, probably for me personally. I was just enjoying some of the things that happened. Some of the other things I didn’t do it, but I tried to be positive and, as I said, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had here. “
Vogel is entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed as a Lakers coach in the summer of 2019. He did not want to discuss whether to start 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 a Laker for life.”
Pelinka, meanwhile, gave him heartfelt approval. “Frank is a man who is Kurt [Rambis] and I and the front office are really happy to work with what really works great with all our players and we see it as a strong part of our future for sure, ”he said.
As it was released the following year with a similar core, it seemed the desire of many people on the team – including major stakeholders in the decision-making process in James and Pelinka – Lakers striker Marquis Morris had hinted that there were some bad apples that are to shake off the tree.
“The way I feel is that we need to have guys to be drawn to win,” said Morris, who is also a free agent, and said he hopes to return. “Sacrifice whatever it takes to win. To be in the squad, to be out of the squad. You don’t get hit, you get punches. We need guys here who are tested in battle. We need guys here who have one goal And you 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 this. friendship that we had our championship year to win it – to try to win it again next year. “
Lakers veteran Jared Dudley, who has just finished his 14th season and turns 35 next month, said he wants to return to his role as a locker room leader and glue next year, although he missed more. most of last season with a torn MCL. “A thousand percent,” he said. “Come on, they need me, man. They need me as much as I need them. Come on.”