Lakers News: Rob Pelinka Adamant About Keeping Team’s ‘Core’ Together
Rob Pelinka, Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After a remarkable playoff run in which the team reached the Western Conference Finals as the seventh seed, the Los Angeles Lakers seem very optimistic about contending for a title next season, with general manager Rob Pelinka having high hopes for what the team can accomplish.

On Tuesday, the Lakers introduced the two players they selected in the 2023 NBA Draft, with Pelinka fielding questions from the media after their roles and upcoming free agency, which gets underway this weekend.

Pelinka made it abundantly clear that the front office is intent on keeping the core of this team together moving forward, following the success they had during the NBA playoffs.

“I think we’re at the doorstep of free agency, and we’ve been pretty clear since our last game, with the success of making it to the Western Conference Finals,” Pelinka said.” We want to try our hardest to keep this core of guys together and also improve around the edges and on the margins to not only get back to where we were last year but hopefully take the next step and get into the NBA Finals.”

With the Lakers bringing in two promising young players, Pelinka acknowledged that rookies could have an impact in their first season like Christian Braun didn’t for the Denver Nuggets during their championship run.

“I think the league is full of young players that can surprise even in the playoffs,” Pelinka said. “The team that beat us, Denver, had a guy last year that was in their rotation, so I don’t want to put a limit on what either of these guys can do for Coach Ham and the team. I think they’re going to start with the foundation of work, and if they earn minutes in our rotation, that’s because they put in the work to do it, but I do think guys can be impactful in this league, even young players.”

As a result of what he saw during the postseason, Pelinka has put an emphasis on defense and rebounding, as he believes that’s what can help a team win championships in today’s game moving forward.

“I think we believe in the proof of concept of this group, and we saw defensively what we were able to do to finish the season out, and I think defense and rebounding wins championships,” Pelinka said. “That’s the core of Darvin’s system and our identity. We want to lean into that.”

As free agency draws near, Pelinka and company are keeping their options open as the team looks for ways to improve the squad this summer, with the ultimate goal remaining the same.

“I think if there’s ways we can improve the roster, of course, we’re going to do that. I think probably less focus of ‘Hey, what is Team X or Team Y doing?’ And more focus on how can we optimize us,” Pelinka said of free agency. “We say it all the time, but we have one singular goal. It’s to add the 18th banner, and that’s our focus heading into the next couple of days we’re going to do all we can to maximize that opportunity, and yes, teams are going to be aggressive. There’s a lot of parity in the league right now, and everyone smells an opportunity to chase a championship, but we’re going to try our best to stay in that pack or at the head of that pack.”

NBA free agency will get underway on Friday, June 30, at 3 p.m. PST, with the Lakers having some work to do to keep this roster intact and explore options to upgrade ahead of next season.

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