NBA free agent rumors involving the Los Angeles Lakers have been persistent over the past year, ranging in subject from Paul George and his reported interest in a homecoming to LeBron James potentially looking to get an early start on his Hollywood ambitions during his playing career.
But while those two players and other superstars that have been rumored to want to join the Lakers with varying degrees of severity would obviously make the team a lot better immediately, they’ve also at times appeared to drive the franchise’s focus away from the young players they are still trying to develop.
There has been some level of debate of whether or not all of the noise surrounding the Lakers’ free agency intentions has actually impacted the team on the court. Forward Larry Nance Jr. seemed to confirm that the team was not only aware of all the rumors but that the Lakers were affected by them as well, per Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group:
“Everybody,” former Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. sighed on Saturday afternoon when recalling the franchise’s annual wish list. “Everybody.”
Nance, back for his first game against the Lakers since being traded in February, remembered getting “super excited” each year, then settling back into keeping “the focus on developing our younger guys.”
“I don’t want to say distracting,” Nance said, “but it was definitely, as free agency is, it takes a toll.”
Those rumors seemed to take less of a toll on the Lakers this year than in seasons past, with the team already posting its most wins in five years and playing above-average defense to boot.
That change is somewhat ironic given that rumors about who the Lakers will get in free agency have seemingly been more common than ever this season, but it also doesn’t mean Nance is wrong about those reports taking their toll on locker room morale.
Players want to feel like they’re wanted, and it’s a testament to the determination of the current roster, as well as head coach Luke Walton and the rest of his staff that they’ve been able to stay focused on improving despite the rampant rumors.
If their upward trajectory continues, it also may make whether or not any of those star free agents join the Lakers irrelevant.