It seems inevitable the Lakers (13-40) will make changes to their roster amid an eventual missed playoff appearance and possibly the worst record in franchise history.
But the Lakers are “unlikely” to make a deal prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, according to a league source familiar with the front office’s thinking. The Lakers have and will still make calls regarding possible trades. Yet, the Lakers are also aware that any moves could compromise a few variables they deem important.
The Lakers consider it a “high” priority, according to the league source both to maintain financial flexibility for this offseason’s free agency and to protect their draft picks. The Lakers have a middle first-round pick from Houston as part of the Jeremy Lin trade. The Lakers also owe a first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns as part of the Steve Nash trade, though they could keep it if the selection lands in the top five during the NBA draft lottery in late May.
The Lakers are interested in acquiring Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, who has recently made it clear he will not re-sign with the Phoenix Suns. Dragic also said in an interview with Los Angeles Newspaper Group last month that the Lakers are one of the teams he will consider after he opts out of his $7.9 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
But the prospect of making such a deal seems daunting for the Lakers. Under no circumstances, would the Lakers make that draft pick unprotected to land Dragic, let alone any star player. The Lakers are also reluctant to ship Lakers rookies Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle in any trade because of their potential.
“You can’t control nothing that’s going to happen,” Clarkson said. “You’re here to play and work hard.”
Clarkson has averaged 13.4 points on 39 percent shooting, 3.8 assists and 1.9 turnovers in 30.6 minutes in the past 11 games as the Lakers’ starting point guard. Although Randle suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee in the Lakers’ season opener, they are intrigued with his development both as a bruising post player and versatile playmaker.
Lakers coach Byron Scott said “there’s not one position right now I can say I’m totally satisfied with” on his roster. But Scott said he has not had any conversations with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss about the upcoming trade deadline.
“That’s not my job. My job is to get these guys ready for the second half or these last 30 games,” Scott said. “[Mitch’s] job obviously is to try to make us better. I’m sure he’s probably getting phone calls and making phone calls. I don’t talk to him unless he’s ready to talk to me about certain things that are going on. Then, other than that, I look at every day as the same. Go about my business to get these guys ready.”
Scott said he has mostly carried the same mentality with his players.
“I kind of let them deal with it on their own because everybody has a different way of dealing with it,” Scott said. “As a coach to come in and talk to them about it, I think that puts added pressure on them. I just try to go by every day as normal. You’re here until you’re not here. I don’t bring it up, stuff that I hear or read, and I don’t talk to them about it unless they ask me about it.”
Well, not exactly.
Scott reported that the team jokingly told Lakers forward Jordan Hill on Wednesday that Kupchak wanted to speak with him in his office. The Lakers consider Hill an asset since he has posted career-highs in points (12.3), rebounds (8) and minutes played (28). His two-year, $18 million contract also appears attractive because any trading partner can decline his team option for next season. Hill also completed Wednesday’s practice, though he has nursed a sore right hip flexor that kept him out for the past five games.
“He just started walking like ‘What’s wrong? What’s up?'” Scott said of Hill. “Then we just started laughing. Other than that, we just try to act normal.”
The Lakers do not have many other options.
The Lakers could offer Ed Davis, but he doesn’t provide much in salary with a two-year, $2 million contract. Lakers forward Nick Young is in the first year of a four-year $21.5 million deal, but has struggled lately with his shooting accuracy. The Lakers could also trade guard Jeremy Lin, but he is averaging only 10.2 points on 42.6 percent shooting, 4.6 assists and 2.7 turnovers in 25.5 minutes per game. His expiring $14.9 million seems burdensome, though $8.4 million of his salary goes against the cap.
“I’m not worried about that,” said Lin, who reported refusing to talk about his future both with his family and agent. “Free agency is one of those situations where you have more control. But until then, you really don’t have control on your behalf. The biggest thing I want to do is end things a different way than what we’re going with the Lakers. That’s what I’m going to focus on.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers’ front office will focus on making phone calls and having discussions with other NBA teams about possible deals until the trade deadline ends at 12 p.m. PST on Thursday. But given the current environment, the Lakers do not expect anything to happen.
“I don’t get involved in all of that until they bring me into it,” Scott said. “Unless there’s a player that they’re talking about and they say, ‘B, we need to talk to you, this is what’s going on.’ I don’t get involved, I don’t ask them about it. And I don’t discuss it with them or the players. I come out here and get ready for practice.”