With the NBA trade deadline past them, the Los Angles Lakers have more clarity about what the roster will look like down the stretch of the 2021-22 season.
The Lakers were widely expected to make a move, and Rob Pelinka confirmed they were aggressive but did not find anything that would be both short and long term. The buyout market is the last path to improving the team, though it remains to be seen who may get bought in the coming weeks.
The deadline is always stressful for players who feel they may get moved, so head coach Frank Vogel acknowledged that their recent practice felt like a weight had been lifted. “It’s a new day,” Vogel said. “I think we had great energy today both in the team film session and in practice. I think there’s just a natural reset energy to our group knowing that the trade deadline has passed.
“This is the group that we put together to start the year, this is the group that we believe in, and I think every team feels that on some level, but I think our group in particular with how we played the last two games and how we were feeling about our group, there was a bad energy to it. But I think with that deadline passing and having a refreshed mindset today; our group had really good energy about going out and trying to win a game tomorrow and understanding and believing what we can do this year.”
Despite some reported deals about trading away Russell Westbrook, the guard remains on the roster, and Vogel said there is no change in what he needs from him. “I don’t think there’s any major shift involved. We just want him to play his game and obviously to continue to help him with the environment around him and make him comfortable.
“That’s our job as coaches to put him in position to succeed and to be himself, but it’s not a major adjustment. But there are things that we look at every day throughout the course of the year, not just right now with him and with all of our guys, to put them in positions to succeed. So that’s really where our focus is.”
Westbrook has been maligned all season for his up-and-down play, but with the deadline behind him and the Lakers, perhaps he can redeem himself in the 26 games remaining.
Lakers turned down Russell Westbrook-John Wall swap
Trading away Westbrook would have been an admission that the experiment did not work, and the Lakers reportedly had a deal in place with the Houston Rockets to swap him out for John Wall. However, L.A. rejected the deal because they did not want to include their 2027 first-round pick.