NBA

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka leaves door open for more trades before the deadline

By Sports Desk January 25, 2023

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka made it clear on Tuesday that their trade for Rui Hachimura will not be the end of their dealings before the deadline on February 9.

The Lakers made the first big splash of trade season by sending three second-round picks and bench guard Kendrick Nunn to the Washington Wizards in exchange for their former ninth overall draft pick from 2019.

They remain with two premium trade assets – their first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029 – as well as Russell Westbrook's massive contract to potentially balance any salary with a star arriving in Los Angeles.

According to Pelinka, he felt the Hachimura move was the kind of low-risk, high-reward deal that made sense as they continue to pursue bigger fish.

"[We] felt like it was an opportunity for us to strike early and address a need in a market that has proven to be a little bit slow," he said.

"It doesn't mean our work is finished – we're going to continue to monitor the situation with the 29 other teams.

"Our job as a front office is always to look to improve our team both now and in the future, and we felt like Rui was the perfect way to do that, and that's why we struck early."

The Lakers have been linked with a number of deals, including a reported trade for Indiana Pacers duo Buddy Hield and Myles Turner prior to the season, but Pelinka said he is saving his bullets for a championship-altering move.

"I think the calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not," he said. "There's no in-between or incremental growth. 

"So as we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens. And, I said this at the beginning of the season, if there's an opportunity to get all the way to the end and win a championship, there's no resource we'll hold onto if we feel like that's there.

"The completely unwise thing to do would be to shoot a bullet early and then not have it later when you have a better championship move you can make. That's a really delicate calculus and something the entire front office, we evaluate with all the moves. 

"If we see a move that puts us as a frontrunner to get another championship here, the 18th one here, we'll make it, and if that move doesn't present itself, we'll be smart and make it at a later time."

Lakers superstar LeBron James has let his frustration be known at times this year about the urgency of not wasting the final years of his prime, but Pelinka said he will not let that force him into a sub-optimal move.

"I think LeBron said it really well at the press conference the other night when he said: 'My job is to play basketball, the front office's job is to do their job and build a roster, and coach [Darvin] Ham's job is to coach.'," he said. "I agree with that.

"We all have to do our jobs and do them with excellence and all be together. That's how we operate and will continue to operate."

While the Lakers wait for their next big move, coach Ham shared his excitement about the acquisition of the 24-year-old, six-foot-eight Hachimura.

"I've always been impressed by him," he said. "Just a multi-faceted, strong, athletic, skilled young player that I'm really excited about having the opportunity to add him to our ballclub. I think he's going to bring a lot."

After losing to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, the Lakers are now 22-26 and sit 2.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks in the race for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

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