The Lakers had a busy trade deadline, swinging a blockbuster deal that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s first-round pick. With the trade, the Lakers created significant cap space that enables them to pursue two top-tier free agents this summer.
Speaking to reporters, including ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, on Thursday, team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka spoke about the team’s moves. Both Johnson and Pelinka stated that the team’s goal is to acquire elite talent and make a run at the playoffs next season.
“There’s so many different ways you can use that [cap space],” Pelinka said, “And then, of course, the obvious way is we now have in July of 2018 and July of 2019, we now have real 100 percent space to do two max players if that’s what we decide to do, or one in 2018 and then following it up with another one in 2019. So the flexibility is really amazing.”
The Lakers 22-31, are currently 6.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, so a playoff appearance seems out of the cards. However, Johnson reiterated that Thursday’s moves were made with the intention of getting better.
“I don’t want to stay where we are. I don’t want to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in,” Johnson said. “We have to take another step, right? So this move allows us to position ourselves to hopefully take that next step.”
Check out other news and notes surrounding the Lakers:
- Johnson was asked by reporters if the Lakers had any substantiative talks at the deadline about moving Luol Deng and his albatross contract. Johnson was brutally honest as he lets out a few laughs and said “we wish, right?” tweets Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. Deng has appeared in just one game with the Lakers this season.
- Lonzo Ball has not played since January 13 as a knee injury has sidelined the Lakers’ rookie point guard. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes that Ball is progressing well but that he still cannot sprint or jump at full strength. Until that happens, Ball will remain a spectator — and may miss the 2018 Rising Stars Challenge.
- The Lakers won their last three games with Josh Hart — the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — starting. Hart has played well for the Lakers and is showing himself to be a draft steal, Mike Trudell of NBA.com writes. “I don’t think you ever plan on counting on a late first round pick in their rookie season,” head coach Luke Walton said. “You try to get them minutes where you can, and develop them. But he’s done a nice job every time he’s been called on, being ready, and helping us win.”
- Despite the Lakers being out of contention, center Brook Lopez does not plan on pursuing a buyout to latch on with a contender, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Lopez is personally having the worst season of his career, and while his plans may change, he is set on playing out the final year of his contract in purple and gold.