The Los Angeles Lakers have a tricky offseason to navigate, trying to find a balance between short-term success and the franchise’s future.
The Lakers are determined to improve upon the disastrous 2021-22 season but have limited means to do so. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook’s contracts alone put L.A. over the salary cap, restricting the front office’s ability to bring in valuable rotation players.
James’ expiring contract makes it even more difficult for the Purple and Gold to plan for the future. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus claims the Lakers likely won’t know what’s the four-time NBA champion’s commitment to the franchise before they have to make the most important personnel decisions this summer:
The Lakers were paralyzed at the trade deadline without clarity from James, and they remain so. The star forward is eligible for an extension on August 4, but most of the team’s moves will need to happen in June and July.
The Lakers are stuck without a commitment from James, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season. Competing executives and agents do not expect the team to get clarity from James ahead of the draft and free agency.
Meanwhile, the Purple and Gold appear to be close to determining Westbrook’s future. Reports claim the Lakers have been operating as if the 2017 NBA MVP will be on the roster in 2022-23.
Lessening James’ workload will be Darvin Ham’s No. 1 goal
Injuries played a major role in the Lakers’ failures last season. Although James played some of the best basketball of his career, he couldn’t lead L.A. to a victory in crucial parts of 2021-22—making just 56 appearances during the campaign.
New head coach Darvin Ham has said taking care of James’ well-being will be his priority next season.
“Just maintenance, and he’s done a phenomenal job his entire career, taking care of his body, and spending the resources and provide himself with the right people around him to make sure he’s able to sustain the type of level you see him play at even to this day,” Ham said.
“So just being in and not just Bron, but AD, Russ, our entire group. Like we’re really, really player health-conscious, like we’ll get with the performance team build out a plan for everybody. And again, the plan is to get stronger as the season gets longer.
“So that’ll be my No. 1 goal is to try to lessen some of the wear and tear on LeBron because, you know, I feel like he’s shown that level he’s playing that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So I just want to try to help and assist him with being able to sustain that level.”
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