The Los Angeles Lakers franchise certainly is no stranger to external distractions that can stem from free agency or trade rumors, and the team’s young core has certainly learned that the difficult way over the past two seasons.
While the Lakers were working to develop Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, there was rampant speculation over what the future entailed. Particularly for Julius Randle, who eventually moved on after the Lakers rescinded their qualifying offer.
The front office clearly was preparing to pursue LeBron James and Paul George in free agency, and a potential Kawhi Leonard trade then became a talking point. That’s since given way to reports of the Lakers eyeing Kevin Durant, Leonard and/or Klay Thompson.
Of course, more recently, Anthony Davis has taken center stage because of his trade demand. The Lakers are among the teams expected to present the New Orleans Pelicans with an offer for the five-time All-Star before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
Although the Lakers young core fared relatively well in maintaining focus through trade rumors last season, some of the team’s players are now struggling with it, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
The speculation is “weighing heavily” on the several of young guys this time around, the source said.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton has been consistent in his message to the team that trade speculation or criticism from outside the organization should be tuned out. Josh Hart painted a picture of taking that literally.
“What news? Who? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said when asked if players had discussed Davis’ trade request. “I don’t pay attention to media stuff. I control what I can control, and that’s just going out there every day and being a professional about my craft.”
Earlier this week Walton said he felt his players were more at ease in handling the rampant speculation. If that isn’t necessarily the case, some sense of relief could be had in eight days.
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