LOS ANGELES – Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka expressed optimism that the front office upgraded the team’s wing and outside shooting needs by acquiring Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks. But Pelinka stressed that “it doesn’t mean our work is finished” leading into the Feb. 9 trading deadline.
“We’re going to continue to monitor the situations with the 29 other teams,” Pelinka said Tuesday before the Lakers played the Clippers at Crpyto.com Arena. “Our job as a front office is always to look for ways to improve our team both now and in the future. We felt like Rui was the perfect way to do that. That’s why we struck early.”
The Lakers struck early for reasons beyond hoping that Hachimura could improve the team’s shooting and perimeter defense after averaging 13 points on a 47.9% clip through three-plus seasons in Washington. The Lakers made the deal without sacrificing their two first-round picks (2027, 2029). Pelinka added the Lakers “have tremendous flexibility to pivot in multiple different ways,” including re-signing Hachimura as a restricted free agent this offseason.
Pelinka said that it remains “a really delicate calculus” whether the Lakers become willing to trade their first-round picks before the Feb. 9 trading deadline.
“The calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There’s no in-between or incremental growth,” Pelinka said. “As we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens. If there’s an opportunity to get all the way at the end and win a championship, there’s no resource we’ll hold onto if we feel like that’s there. But at the same time, the completely unwise thing to do would be to shoot a bullet early and not have it later when you have a better championship move to make.”
Although LeBron James has deferred roster-related questions to the front office, he has often implied in press conferences and on social media posts that he expects the Lakers to improve the roster before the trade deadline.
“LeBron and Anthony Davis are always involved in what Coach Ham is doing and what the front office is doing,” Pelinka said. “At the same time, LeBron said it really well at the press conference the other night when he said, ‘My job is to play basketball, the front office’s job is to … build a roster and Coach Ham’s job is to coach.’ I agree with that. We all have to do our job and do it with excellence and all be together. That’s how we operate and will continue to operate.”
How the Lakers play could theoretically influence whether the front office believes it is only a trade or two away from competing for an NBA title.
Following a 2-10 start, the Lakers have since gone 20-15 entering Tuesday’s game against the Clippers. Though the Lakers rank 12th in the Western Conference, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the team is “trending in a great direction with the way we’re competing.” And Pelinka lauded James for winning Western Conference Player of the Week honors after averaging 35 points on 51% shooting in four games last week.
The Lakers also anticipate fielding a fuller roster soon. Ham said the Lakers will evaluate Davis’ availability for Wednesday’s game against San Antonio after having “another great day” during the team’s morning shootaround on Tuesday. Following the Lakers’ game against the Clippers, Davis will have missed the past 20 games with a sore right foot.
Ham added that guards Austin Reaves (strained left hamstring, 10 games) and Lonnie Walker IV (left knee tendinitis, 12 games) will be evaluated at the end of the week. And Hachimura is expected to play in Wednesday’s game against the Spurs after attending a pregame workout and introductory press conference on Tuesday.
“You’re constantly evaluating and trying to see different ways that you can get better. Rui is a step in the right direction in terms of that thinking,” Ham said. “We’re continuing to see what’s going on and what’s available. If we stand pat, we stand pat. If we do more, we do more. It is what it is. We’re always looking to see in what ways we can be the best version of ourselves and what that exactly entails. We keep our options open at all times.”
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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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