At this time in past years, the Lakers had formalized plans how they would convince the next superstar that their organization would give them everything they would need.
At a free-agency meeting either at their facility or the client’s sports agency, the Lakers would harp on two things. The Lakers would tout their championship exceptionalism, as their 16 NBA titles explained what historically drove this franchise. They would also highlight the countless ways a player could become a star in the entertainment capital of the world. Often, the Lakers either glossed over or downplayed the concerns about their actual on-court product.
With the Lakers whiffing on those pitches in recent seasons, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka will try to provide clarity on a pressing question. When free agency begins on Friday at 9:01 pm. PT, how will they rectify the Lakers’ past free-agent strikeouts?
“I’d imagine free-agent pitches will be different,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss said. “I’m not exactly sure what those plans are. But whatever they do, I will be there at their disposal.”
Buss replaced her brother, Jim, with Johnson. She replaced longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak with longtime player agent Rob Pelinka in February, partly because of the lack of communication amid four consecutive missed playoff appearances. Though Buss has offered positive reviews on the improved synergy with the new front office, she has still maintained that basketball operations has full autonomy.
So as the Lakers have analyzed both the free-agent landscape and their own rebuilding process, they appear intent on doing things differently. Instead of trying to hit home runs, the Lakers plan to spend the free-agent period perfecting their swing.
After failing to retain their own free agents (Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol) or sign new ones (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Durant) in recent years, the Lakers do not have any sales-pitch meetings scheduled for any prospective free agents.
After the Lakers splurged last summer on veterans Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) and Luol Deng (four years, $72 million), the Lakers will mostly pursue players on one-year deals so they have enough cap room for when James, Russell Westbrook and Paul George possibly become free agents in the 2018 offseason. They already made progress by trading Mozgov and third-year guard…