The next major date on the NBA calendar is March 25, which is the annual trade deadline. There is always a lot of anticipation as no one is quite sure which team will make a big move to try and bolster their chance at winning the NBA Championship.
The Los Angeles Lakers looked to be in a fine position leading up to the deadline, but a slew of recent injuries has changed everything.
L.A. was already without Anthony Davis due to his strained calf while Marc Gasol has also been out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. But now with LeBron James out indefinitely and expected to miss several weeks due to a high right ankle sprain, general manager Rob Pelinka must re-think his strategy.
Whereas before the Lakers may have just been looking at minor moves, something more significant may be necessary as the health of the team moving forward is unclear. At the least, head coach Frank Vogel believes that their mindset heading into the deadline will likely change now.
“I think it certainly will impact what our mindset is ahead of the trade deadline, but I don’t know in what way,” Vogel said before Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns. “I haven’t had any of those conversations overnight in the midst of a back to back. All your focus is on what do we have to do to win this game.
“We’ll get into deeper conversations in the coming days. Obviously, when you have two key guys that are going to be out, you look at the trade market differently and you look at the buyout market differently. Those are the conversations we’ll have in the coming days.”
A big trade was always unlikely as the Lakers don’t have many assets to deal away. The Davis trade stripped the team of many upcoming first-round picks and the team’s salary cap situation makes pulling off any kind of deal even more difficult.
As for the James’ injury, Vogel seemed resigned to the fact that the Lakers may be without their superstar for some time. “It’s a high ankle sprain. Those things take a while to heal. Slow recoveries,” Vogel added. “We’re preparing for us to be without him, basically, we’re saying indefinitely. Until we feel like he’s ready to be back, our group has to prepare to win games without him and without A.D.”
The most likely move for the Lakers remains the buyout market as they do have two open roster spots. The hard cap still limits the team’s overall ability to make additions, however. But if there is a front office person capable of doing the necessary salary cap gymnastics, Pelinka is that guy.
Vogel says door is not closed on re-signing Damian Jones
One of those options could potentially be the one the Lakers just had in center Damian Jones. With his second 10-day contract expiring, the Lakers would have had to sign for the rest of the season to keep him around, but they chose not to do that over the weekend. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a possibility of that happening later in the season.
“With D.J, the door is not closed,” Vogel said. “But we’re going to use this window of time approaching the trade deadline and the buyout market and we’re going to maintain our flexibility during this stretch to see what’s ahead of us,” Vogel said. “He did a good job for us and the door is not closed.”
As Vogel said, the Lakers want to keep their options open ahead of the deadline and buyout market. But should Jones wind up being the best available option, the team will surely come back around should he still be available.
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