LOS ANGELES — After an uneventful trade deadline on Thursday, Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka made clear his team's inactivity.
“You can't buy a house that's not for sale,” Pelinka said before Los Angeles' 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets. “We spend a lot of time looking for ways to use assets to improve our team. But the right move just wasn't there.”
The Lakers, despite countless calls — both outgoing and incoming — in the days and weeks leading up to the deadline were not particularly close to any trades on Thursday, sources told ESPN. There was no traction in a trade for Atlanta Hawks point guard Dejounte Murray on Thursday, a deal that had been discussed for weeks between the two franchises but never reached, sources said.
Ultimately, Los Angeles didn't want to shortchange its receiver — parting with its only transferable future pick (2029) now for a “marginal” improvement, as Pelinka put it — and lose the opportunity to package that pick for a bigger deal. This summer as he will have three future first rounders available to be traded when the NBA calendar resets in the summer.
“In terms of what was available at the trade deadline, we had one draft pick in the first round,” Pelinka said. “That was the only one we could fish with. And this summer in June, at draft time, we'll have three first-round picks to hunt for trades, which I think will really open up the potential for a bigger or bigger swing prospect.”
Los Angeles has one open roster spot and plans to fill it in the buyout market in order to improve in the meantime.
“There is a really good range of names available in the looming buyout market,” Pelinka said. “And fortunately under the new [collective bargaining agreement]We are in a position to be players in possession. Some teams cannot sign players at a certain level of spending. So we will look for ways to upgrade our team there.”
The Lakers are among the early favorites to sign guard Spencer Dinwiddie when they clear waivers. Dinwiddie was traded from Brooklyn to Toronto on Thursday and the Raptors do not plan to make him part of their future.
“We tried everything we could, and again, the market is the market,” Pelinka said. “There were very few sellers. I don't think today, on deadline day, there were many big players transferred. There were a lot of buyers, and as everyone knows, when the market has few sellers and tons of buyers.” Prices are very aggressive. “Sometimes inaction is better than unwise action.”
Pelinka said he spoke to LeBron James before the trade deadline and James' message to him was that he will fulfill his responsibility to lead the Lakers to the greatest extent possible, regardless of who is on the roster.
James, when asked after the Nuggets game if he thought Los Angeles could make a run if Jared Vanderbilt (foot), Cam Reddish (knee) and Gabe Vincent (knee) could return healthy, was unable to answer the question.
“I don't know,” James said. “We haven't gotten to that point. So it's hard to say.”
Los Angeles had even worse luck on the health front Thursday, as D'Angelo Russell was a late scratch with left knee soreness, and Max Christie missed the second half after spraining his right ankle.
“I think we first have to stay healthy,” Anthony Davis said when asked what it would take for the Lakers to make a playoff push. “We lost Max, Vando, D-Lo, Gabe. So we have to get healthy.”
Davis was asked how the team feels any pressure to compete for a championship this late in James' career, and the Lakers big man admitted that, to some extent, the team is far from that right now.
“I think we all want to win,” Davis said. “I don't think that's what we're looking at. For us now, it's just about winning the next game. We can't look too far into the future. Obviously that's the ultimate goal, to win every game.” “Last year, but there are a lot of things we have to clean up before we even think about competing for the championship.”
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