EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Before the Los Angeles Lakers made the move to finally part ways with future Hall of Famer Russell Westbrook last season, the storied franchise seemed to be in a position where things could go bad very quickly. The team appeared to be a rudderless ship with two superstars watching games on the sideline in street clothes more than they were participating in them.
All signs were pointing to a massive shake-up this summer, as faith in the team as it was constructed was dying quickly among the avid fanbase as well as in the front office. Suppose things didn’t turn around after the moves made before last February’s NBA trade deadline. In that case, there’s no telling what would’ve happened during this NBA offseason, as there’s a chance this team’s roster would look much different with a rebuilding process underway.
Reluctance = PROGRESS
Fortunately, general manager Rob Pelinka still had something left up his sleeve. He was determined to right the ship while resisting the urge to bring in another superstar, Kyrie Irving, who might hurt the team rather than help it.
Pelinka resisted the urge to trade for Irving during the season and didn’t fold in NBA free agency, which seems to be another brilliant move for the potential NBA Executive of the Year.
This shows a remarkable change in mindset for the franchise that has rarely resisted the urge to bring in a superstar, especially if a superstar on the team, LeBron James, lobbies for the move to happen. This is PROGRESS!
DLo's spin move is next level. pic.twitter.com/8dSnKG1LuX
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 9, 2023
After some stellar moves before the deadline that resulted in the team kicking it into high gear and making it to the Western Conference Finals, Pelinka followed it up by sticking to his word of keeping the team relatively intact this summer, re-signing Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell.
Along with the addition of Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes and Cam Reddish, the Lakers have added Christian Wood into the mix, which is also a sign of change.
Christian Wood Shows Lakers Allure is Back
After weeks and weeks of speculation and rumors, Wood finally put pen to paper recently to join the Lakers, which apparently has been a lifelong dream of the Long Beach native. The Lakers newcomer took to Twitter to let everyone know that he’s always wanted to be a Laker, and now he has his chance to showcase his talents while sporting the purple and gold for his hometown team.
There was some talk around the league that Wood was waiting to see if there might be a spot for him on the Miami Heat’s roster if the team could trade for Damian Lillard. Once or if that deal goes down, there’s bound to be some players waived, or at least some spots opened up.
It’s uncertain whether these rumors are true, but even if they are, the Lakers’ allure is still back and thriving, as players around the league are taking notice of this team and moves made by Pelinka and company. The team is focused on putting the right mix of players on the floor rather than shooting for headlines with superstars to add with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
It’s always been my dream to be a laker 💜💛
— 35 (@Chriswood_5) September 6, 2023
The Westbrook saga in Los Angeles was a costly experiment, but the team cut the cord before it resulted in a potential rebuilding process. Even though Westbrook might go on to have some success down the hall for the L.A. Clippers, he wasn’t working for this Lakers team and needed to go probably more than any other star in the team’s history needed to be shown the door.
With Westbrook gone and the team tasting success with a squad that plays great team basketball, the franchise can move forward and get whatever is left in the tank for the James-Davis duo in Los Angeles, which could’ve quickly ended this summer had things not turned around.
With success comes the added pressure of wanting more success, and that’s what the Lakers will be facing right out of the gate to start the 2023-24 NBA season. Los Angeles won’t be taking anyone by surprise next season, as they are expected to make some noise in the Western Conference and potentially be the biggest threat to the Denver Nuggets’ chances of repeating.
Even though the upcoming season will still lean heavily on Davis and James staying healthy throughout 82 games and a potentially deep playoff run that follows, the Lakers have the depth to remain in the playoff picture and really strike some fear in their opponents in the West.
Although pressure and expectations on the NBA level can be tough to deal with, as the Lakers franchise knows all too well, Los Angeles has another window of opportunity here to hang an NBA-record 18th in the rathers at Crypto.com Arena (it still feels weird writing that name) if this team is as advertised with its players ready to be a genuine title contender.