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Lakers Media takeaway: Pelinka ready to trade first-round picks; Westbrook stresses professionalism

After a disappointing 2021-22 season that ended without a trip to the Play Round, the Los Angeles Lakers Huge changes are expected before the 2022-23 campaign begins. On some level, they did exactly that. Only five players returned from last year’s disaster, but with Russell Westbrook among them, the underlying problems of limited depth, defense and shooting that the Lakers were doomed a season before continue to plague the purple and gold. So expectations will remain relatively low until the Lakers prove they don’t need to make another move.

On Monday, all the main characters on the team tried to do just that. New head coach Darvin Hamm, head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the entire roster (except for Dennis Schroeder, who is dealing with a visa issue) spoke at a media day about the nightmare season they just experienced, the season yet to come and everything in it. between. Here are the highlights from Media Day as the Lakers attempt to return to the championship image.

The Lakers are ready to deal with first-round picks… for the right comeback

The biggest question in the Offseason was originally when the Lakers traded Westbrook. As the months went by, it turned into a reason why Westbrook wouldn’t trade. There were a lot of theories. Hamm explained that he had a plan for Westbrook, so he may not have been as optimistic about sending him as the others. there Obvious financial motives to preserve Westbrook. And, of course, there’s the Lakers’ dreaded tax, with supposedly premium teams costing the NBA’s most prominent team in negotiations, especially when they’re desperate.

But Occam’s code tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, and the simplest explanation here is that Westbrook is widely seen as a negative asset and the Lakers don’t want to give up assets just to be removed from the team. Redeeming anything of value may mean giving up each of the available first-round choices. Pelinka made it clear that he was willing to part with those shots.

“The only thing that needs to be made clear is, there has been a lot of speculation, will the Lakers trade their picks? Won’t they trade their picks? Let me be absolutely clear: We have one of the great players in LeBron James. Play the game with our squad. We have committed to a long-term, three-year contract. Years. So of course, we’re going to do everything we can, including choices, to make deals that give us a chance to help LeBron get through to the end. He’s committed to our organization. That has to be a two-way commitment, and it’s there.”

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Here things get tricky: As this off-season has proven, he’s not going to give up those picks just to do so. As Pelinka explained, “You have one chance to make a deal with multiple choices, so if you make that deal, and I’m not talking about any particular player on our team, but if you make that deal, it should also be the right choice. You have one chance to do that. So. We are very thoughtful about decisions about when and how to use venture capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

The implication is that the Lakers were not satisfied with the offers on the table. As far as the report tells us, the two main deals discussed are Miles Turner and Buddy Heald of Indiana or Bojan Bogdanovic and a select group of other players from Jazz. The Lakers may have already traded Westbrook if Kyrie Irving is really at the table, but all indications are that he hasn’t, and that he is set to play the final year of his contract in Brooklyn. If the Lakers are waiting for another player of Irving’s caliber to become available, they may never make a deal. Role player deals will be available throughout the season. Ultimately, the Lakers will have to decide how much of the season they are willing to sacrifice waiting for the perfect trade.

Availability is the best ability

Over the past two seasons, LeBron James played only 101 games. Anthony Davis played in even fewer, only 76. Whether Westbrook is around or not, the Lakers have no chance of competing without their best players. Keeping them healthy will be a priority this season, and an important promise to do their part. “You don’t need LeBron or A.D. to play in the playoff minutes in October, November or December,” the new coach said. Notably, Hamm is coming from Milwaukee, whose coach Mike Budenholzer is notorious for stinging minutes for his superstars. Giannis Antetokounmpo has never exceeded 33 minutes per game since Budenholzer took charge of Milwaukee.

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James was usually against reducing his workload. “I think this whole combo of ‘LeBron needs more rest’ or should I take more rest or spend some time here, it’s getting a lot bigger than it really is,” James Reporters After losing 2021 to Washington. “I’ve never talked about it, I don’t talk about it, I don’t believe in it. We all need a little more rest, this is a quick turnaround from last season and we all wish I could have more rest. But I’m here for work, I’m here to tick my clock and be available.” to my teammates.”

But James sang a different tune on Media Day. James said he is in good health after an injury-strewn season and said he would “focus my game on being available”. Exactly what that means has yet to be seen, but for a team full of ball the Lakers will likely hope to mark their minutes as their 38th birthday approaches.

new culture

as For Anthony Davis, the Lakers have been wearing training camp jerseys made with the word “chip” to represent the chip the team is carrying on their shoulder this season. For the first time since Davis arrived in Los Angeles, the Lakers have become an underdog. They are not a super team or a defending champion. They are just trying to prove that they belong in the breakout picture. This seems to have changed the entire team culture.

No player embodies that culture better than Patrick Beverly. When discussing what went wrong last season, Beverly, as an outsider, referred to the “will factor” as something working against them. “Are they going back to defense? Are they willing to do the little things? I didn’t think so with the unit they had last season. That’s not a vilification to anyone. But as a basketball player, I feel like I’m superior at that – 10, a better 11 in mind when it comes to It’s basketball IQ, coming from a player like this, me, I didn’t know if they had the will factor. I didn’t know if they wanted to make extra rotations. I didn’t know if they wanted to go down, get dirty, scrape Your knees for a loose ball. I didn’t know that. As a captain, going to a team like this, if they don’t, I will. I hope they move on from there.”

Beverly has a history of instilling such a culture in the teams he plays for. He personifies the underdog spirit that the Lakers will now have to embrace. Right now, he’s the guy who does these things constantly. If the Lakers are going to win anything this season, the rest of the team will have to win.

Working relationship

When Westbrook split from longtime agent Thad Foucher this off season, Foucher’s statement indicated that Westbrook simply did not want to stay in Los Angeles. The feeling was, in all likelihood, mutual. But as Westbrook explained on Monday, it doesn’t matter in the end.

“Whether they want me here or not, it doesn’t really matter. My job is to be a professional, show up for work like I’ve always done up until now, and do my job the best way I know how, and that’s it. We all have jobs that people in our jobs don’t like sometimes or not. They want us there, as you can probably attest to at any other job around the world. As a professional and as a working man, I have to do my job and do it in the best way I know how to support and take my family, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

That wasn’t a strong endorsement of his relationship with the Lakers. Pelinka has done his best to pay tribute to Westbrook, but the fact remains that he is making $47 million this season on his negotiable salary slate. If the Lakers were to trade first-round picks, Pelinka said, they would be in the right deal.

until that time? His future is unclear. Hamm refused to commit to the starting lineup, but spoke positively of Westbrook’s position this off-season. “It was great,” Hamm said. “Everything I asked him to do. It was all about being selfless, being team oriented, and being defensive.” Of course, these were talking points that came up frequently before last season. Lakers fans could be forgiven for not believing it until they saw it.