Lakers’ Rob Pelinka think it’s possible to keep young core while making roster changes

Los Angeles Lakers new General Manager Rob Pelinka. El Segundo, CA 3/10/2017. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — With all the unanswered questions and countless scenarios surrounding the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka likened the process toward assembling a Rubik’s cube.

“There’s a thousand different ways to turn the cube to get it and it all lines up,” Pelinka said. “You’ll eventually do it.”

The Lakers eventually want to reach championship prominence again, obviously. But as Pelinka and Lakers president basketball operations Magic Johnson determine which ways to turn the cube, Pelinka sounded certain on one thing. He does not believe he will have to choose between keeping the Lakers’ young core or making roster moves.

“I think it’s both. You never want to just make a trade to say we need to go make a splash,” Pelinka said.”Everything we want to do is be really really thoughtful, deliberate and intelligent.”

What the Lakers do partly hinges on how they fare in the NBA draft lottery on May 16. With the Lakers (26-56) holding the NBA’s third-worst record, the Lakers have a 46.9 percent chance of keeping their top-three protected draft pick. If not, the selection goes to Philadelphia as part of the ill-fitted Steve Nash deal. The pick would either give the Lakers another young player filled with potential, another asset in the trade or spark more willingness to make another player expendable.

Pelinka downplayed all of those components.

“We’re prepared if we have it,” Pelinka said. “We also have a plan if we don’t.”

Still, the Lakers encounter various challenges if they don’t. On one hand, the Lakers still have a late first-round pick and cap space to sign one max player. On the other hand, late first-round players rarely blossom into stars and the Lakers may not have the infrastructure to land a marquee free agent.

“I anticipate that there are many stars that understand how unique this Los Angeles Laker platform is and I’m fully convinced we will have one or more than one come,” Pelinka said. To put a timetable on it, I can’t do that. But I do think as we engage in conversations with voices of influence, it seems like the current of the river has shifted. In past years, it was I don’t know if we’re even going to get meetings with certain players. You can feel the current shifting now toward us of excitement.

Pelinka indirectly alluded to former UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball saying he would like the Lakers to draft him. After the Lakers failed to secure a meeting last season with Kevin Durant, Pelinka said he has heard “rumblings” of unnamed free agents expressing interest.

Meanwhile, Lakers governor Jeanie Buss recently said on a Forbes podcast it would “break her heart” if the Lakers did not field an All-Star next season when Los Angeles hosts the game next year.

“I think Jeanie’s call and what we’re working is to bring a championship to the Lakers,” Pelinka said. “I think her point about having an All-Star. We all know to get to a championship, you’re probably going to need multiple all-stars on your roster. That’s a step toward the ultimate destination. I don’t think that’s our end destination to say we have to have this by such and such time. But clearly part of our strategy is take this amazing, mega watt platform in Los Angeles in all that it is. I’ve had so many people titans of industry reaching out.”

Pelinka has more focus than that. He said he has installed a Wellness program that provides more clarity on each players’ weight-training regimen, dietary habits and sleeping patterns. He plans to invite outside speakers next season. And Pelinka said that “guys that aren’t committed to excellence won’t be here,” including players and members of the front office.

All of which explains why Pelinka said he will become aggressive this offseason.

“I’m a big believer in this; I’d rather have 100 opportunities to look at and say no, 99 times and one yes and then not look at those 100 things and get zero yeses. You have to be out there aggressively pursuing options. You’ve got to put things in motion. You got to be turning over every stone even if what I said in that example you got 99 nos and you got that one yes. If you’re sitting back and waiting for things to come to you, you’ll never get the 100 opportunities.”


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