The drama surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers is only beginning.
Johnson also shipped away D’Angelo Russell while dumping Timofey Mozgov’s contract, a precursor to what the franchise might have planned next when it comes to clearing space for big names.
In fact, ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne caught up with executive Rob Pelinka recently and summarized the approach in the coming years:
Translation—the Lakers have superstars on the mind. Speculation ponders names such as Paul George and LeBron James in 2018 to countless others. For now, the recent news and rumors around the franchise center on Ball and George.
Setting Expectations for Ball
The Lakers made it obvious from the jump Ball will be the face of the team moving forward.
As opposed to shifting Russell to the 2, where he flashed last year and might’ve been worth experimenting with next to Ball, the front office was comfortable throwing him in a deal to get rid of past mistakes by those in charge.
Johnson didn’t take long to confirm Ball’s status:
The man who made the call on Ball’s selection also pointed out the jerseys of retired legends and had an interesting comment for his new point guard.
“We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there one day,” Johnson said, per ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.
Ball? He’s taking the pressure in stride and hoping to act like a sponge from Day 1.
“Obviously, he’s the best point guard to ever play, so I’m looking to go in there and just learn from day one. There’s never going to be another Magic Johnson, so I’m trying to be myself. But if I can come halfway short of him, you know it’s going to be good,” Ball said, according to Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com.
Ball certainly entered the league hyped thanks to his best-in-class passing. While not an incredible athlete, the Lakers are going to ask him to execute an offense, not necessarily be a flashy scorer.
And depending on how the Lakers approach the rest of the rebuild and who they place around Ball, he could end up doing the job expected of him quite well—and sooner rather than later.
All Things Paul George
It’s a badly-kept secret the Lakers want George, another California kid.
Of course, George wants them right back and the Lakers happened to be the team he brought up when breaking the news to the Indiana Pacers he’d be hitting the market in 2018, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Before the draft, a report from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein suggested the Lakers hoped the two non-Ball first-round picks would be enough to lure the Pacers into a deal. No dice there and USA Today‘s Nate Taylor followed by revealing the Pacers would take their time finding the best possible deal.
Simply put, the Lakers might not have enough to convince the Pacers to make a deal. Or perhaps even better from a rebuilding outlook, the Lakers simply aren’t willing to surrender other young assets.
This hasn’t stopped the Lakers from continuing to press for a move alongside other would-be suitors such as the Houston Rockets, according to Stein and his colleague, Chris Haynes: “Although no trade for George came to fruition last week, sources say that both the Rockets and the Lakers remain determined to keep pushing for their George deals.”
But here’s where the idea of compensation holding up a potential deal comes into play. According to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Brandon Ingram is the snafu.
“The Pacers did talk to the Los Angeles Lakers about a package starting with Brandon Ingram, but the 19-year-old forward is exactly the kind of athletic player Magic Johnson wants on his team,” Pluto wrote.
And some would argue he should be—Ingram is a 19-year-old forward with superstar upside after the Lakers picked him second overall in the 2016 draft. Indiana wanting him in a deal while losing George makes perfect sense, but the Lakers have to weigh his loss against the idea George might come to town as a free agent in 2018, anyway.
This is a tough pill the Lakers might simply need to swallow. Sunday night, Stein broke a report the Pacers were talking about a potential three-team deal for George with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets.
We do know this—George won’t be with the Pacers much longer, whether he leaves in a trade or leaves as a free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season.
If the Lakers can’t pull off a deal, the main concern becomes where George lands. If he finds himself in Cleveland with LeBron and wins a title, he might get hungry for more and stay when his contract is up rather than heading to Los Angeles.
But that’s the worst-case scenario at this point. The Lakers aren’t the team unable to lure superstars to town in free agency anymore, especially if a refusal to give up a future piece like Ingram to enter win-now mode is true.
With a cemented direction around cemented pieces, Lakers fans have something to look forward to next season even without a major trade. And those faithful to the organization know all about patience and managing expectations after a crash course in it over the last few years, so waiting a little longer for a big name while watching high-upside players learn on the go doesn’t make for a dim outlook in 2017.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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