With Kobe Bryant heading into retirement, the Los Angeles Lakers were hoping to find another superstar in NBA free agency this summer to help fill the void. Kevin Durant would’ve been the ideal addition for the Lakers as they head into a new era with Luke Walton leading the way.
Unfortunately, despite the constant speculation and endless rumors of Durant’s interest in the Lakers, the superstar wasn’t willing to meet with the team. Durant narrowed his interest to a handful of teams with the Golden State Warriors beating out the competition.
Following the first day of practice for Team USA in Las Vegas, Durant fielded questions from the media about his decision to change teams this summer. One of those questions was why he never gave the Lakers consideration. Durant gave a relatively straightforward answer, via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
“Nothing against the Lakers, but I already had my mind set on who I wanted to talk to,” Durant said following practice with the U.S. Olympic team on Monday at UNLV. “I really respect their team. I just thought they were a couple years away from where I wanted to be.”
It’s not all that surprising that Durant would pass on the opportunity to sit down with the Lakers brass this summer. For one, the storied franchise has struggled with their pitch to free agents over the last couple of years. The team focused on a business approach rather than selling players on what the product on the basketball floor would be.
Secondly, this team is rebuilding. Although there’s a lot of young talent on this team with great potential, as Durant put it, the Lakers are still a few years away from being a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.
Last year’s meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge may have been the tipping point for the Lakers. The business approach rubbed Aldridge the wrong way and as a result, the Lakers brass appeared to take another step back. The franchise made headlines for all the wrong reasons during free agency last summer, and it seems as though it has carried over to this summer’s attempts at bringing in high-priced talent.
Fortunately, the team’s young core has shown promise. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. showed flashes of their potential last season. This year, the team has added two more important pieces to the puzzle in rookies Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac. These young players, with the help of a progressive coach in Walton, may be what is needed to get this team back in playoff contention rather than reverting to blockbuster trades or hoping to land the best players in free agency.