The worst kept secret in the NBA is that the Los Angeles Lakers have big plans in free agency over the next couple of years. While the franchise has targeted big names in the recent years, the difference now is that the team has an established young core led by Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball.
Josh Hart factors into that as well, and Julius Randle may if he is re-signed as a restricted free agent. Another big difference for the Lakers is at the top of the franchise, now led by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
With a formidable duo at the top and under head coach Luke Walton, the Lakers have an established identity and direction that was missing in previous years. And that could very well be the difference in signing one of their targeted free agents.
Pelinka, in his second summer as general manager, undoubtedly believes the Lakers are an attractive destination.
During a recent ESPN interview, Pelinka said he views the team’s young core as being extremely attractive to prospective free agents:
“The playoffs this year, I think have revealed that young players can be difference-makers. And in fact, as the game gets faster and more athletic, you need that to compete in today’s NBA. We feel like our young core is incredibly attractive.”
Pelinka also noted that he believes the Lakers had become stagnant under the previous regime, but that is no longer the case:
“The other thing we’ve restored is the ethos of the Lakers. It had become a little bit stagnant. Free agents weren’t looking at Lakers as a destination. To use a metaphor, it became a little bit like Blackberry vs. Apple. Blackberry wasn’t innovating, they weren’t changing. As Apple innovated, everyone went on to that platform. We tried to bring innovation and energy back. The feedback from people throughout the league is they do feel that renewed energy in Lakerland.”
Whether or not this all leads to the franchise signing a big-name free agent this summer or next remains to be seen. The Lakers are clearly in far better position than in previous years, but it still guarantees nothing.
Pelinka and Johnson have definitely begun restoring the ‘ethos’ as he put it, getting back to what it means to be a Laker. Now the next step is landing one of those big stars, and getting back into the playoffs.
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