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About the Lakers and the Summer of 2018 …

February 5th, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

That was reality that slapped the Los Angeles Lakers in the face.

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the duo responsible for the club’s roster, apparently have been disabused of the notion that a free-agent superstar or two is keen to join their team this summer.

According to, the Lakers no longer are banking that the Summer of ’18 will be all about them — and an instant return to the club’s historic role as championship contender.

Which is good news for Lakers fans, who were wondering just how the team was going to pull that off.

Here are the issues confronting the team.

–The Lakers may not be as awful as their 21-31 record suggests. They won in Oklahoma City the other night and that makes 10 victories in 14 games, with wins over the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs mixed in there. This remains a young team, and nearly everyone getting significant minutes may be even better a year from now.

–The club’s ill-concealed interest in clearing salary-cap space for a big name or two, preferably LeBron James and Paul George, can be called “Plan A.” But it looks increasingly untenable.

LeBron is suffering through a season in Cleveland with a shaky supporting cast, and the idea that he is eager to join the Laker Kids is beginning to seem ridiculous. Plus, George, currently with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma, seems increasingly likely to stay there.

–Meantime, the hunger for a ready-made superstar is not good for the young guns currently on the roster. They understand that several of them would have to leave the team for the Lakers to clear enough cap space to sign a LeBron or George or DeMarcus Cousins. Understandably, that makes the kids anxious.

–Some of the young guys feel, correctly, that their near future will be in Lakers uniforms. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma should feel some level of comfort. But, still, none of them may strike a thirtysomething superstar as ready-to-go championship-caliber teammates.

–Some of those thought most likely to be sent away include the combo guard Jordan Clarkson, 26, and forward Julius Randle, 23, and both are playing particularly well at the moment. But how long will that continue if they decide the organization is ready to jettison them?

–The Lakers apparently are catching up to the reality that player movement may be limited this summer by a static salary cap, and maneuvering around it may be next to impossible, without tearing up the roster and committing tons of cash to a veteran.

Which means they ought to stop agitating the kids over developments that may never happen, or selling fans on the inevitability of a superstar in Staples Center next season. suggests the Lakers could try to pursue potential 2019 free agents such as Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson. Neither of whom will be confused with LeBron — who turns 34 this year, by the way.

So let’s recap:

The Lakers want to become instant contenders this summer, but the handful of players who could help with that … seem to be increasingly disinterested in the Lakers. And little is as undignified as a once-great team begging stars to join them. (Recall: Kevin Durant would not give the Lakers a meeting, two years ago. Ouch.)

Meanwhile, the core of the current Lakers team has upside and maybe lots of it. Starting with Ingram, Ball and Kuzma, and continuing with Larry Nance, Jason Hart, Clarkson and Randle.

By declaring interest in the 2019 free-agent market as well as the summer of 2018, the Lakers postpone decisions they might regret with current kids … and leave open the growing possibility that they will not be able to sign anyone significant until the current core shows itself capable of reaching the playoffs.

It is a savvy move, and a timely one. The trade deadline is looming and the Lakers in effect are saying: “Don’t bank on us trading a couple of the kids with the idea of improving our salary cap situation … and don’t hold us to signing LeBron, Cousins or Paul George.”

They are clothing their new stance as prudence and patience — when the reality is, what they have is what they are, and “Plan B” may not be as bad as we think.






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