Los Angeles Lakers president and general manager Rob Pelinka addressed the media on Saturday following the team's busy trade deadline week. Through a series of moves that was highlighted by a three-team deal that shipped Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz, the Lakers reshaped their roster in a significant way.
Here's a look at some of the notable topics Pelinka covered:
James and Davis were consulted on deals
The "LeGM" jokes about James' influence over his teams' rosters may be hyperbolic, but there's no question that he has input on certain moves. Pelinka confirmed as much on Saturday when he told the media that he did a "check in" with James and Anthony Davis regarding the trade plans.
"We were very mindful of the window we have with this team with our cornerstones of LeBron and Anthony Davis," Pelinka said. "Our calculus around that has been binary. We're on a championship road or we're not."
James had spent all season making public pleas through the media for the Lakers to make some win-now moves. There were his cryptic comments about Aaron Rodgers in November; his statements about only playing to win at this stage of his career in December; his "y'all know what the f--- should be happening" outburst in January; and, finally, his complaint that the team didn't get Kyrie Irving in February.
The message finally got through to the Lakers' brass, and the roster is now better than it was earlier in the season. Whether that will be enough for the Lakers to get into the playoffs at this point, however, remains to be seen. At 25-31, they're stuck in 13th place in the Western Conference and 2.5 games out of even a play-in tournament spot.
'Unfair' to put all the problems on Westbrook
The biggest move the Lakers made ahead of the deadline was sending Russell Westbrook and their 2027 first-round pick, among other assets, to the Utah Jazz in a three-team deal that also involved the Minnesota Timberwolves and brought back D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley.
That move had been a long-time coming; the Lakers have been trying to get rid of Westbrook pretty much ever since they originally traded for him in the summer of 2021. There was even a report from ESPN that compared Westbrook's impact on the locker room to that of a vampire.
But while Westbrook was certainly not helping matters, Pelinka said all the blame should not be placed on him.
"It's really unfair to put the last year and a half about one player," Pelinka said. The whole roster has to come together and fit. Some things with sports sometimes that if things aren't working, you have to fix them."
Westbrook, to his credit, did accept a move to the bench, and was putting up decent counting stats: 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. However, he was shooting it at 29.6 percent from 3-point land, was poor on defense and, by the end of his time with the team, clearly did not want to be there. He may not have been the only problem, but he was one of the biggest and he had to go.
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No sense of a 'Lakers tax'
When Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers were immediately penciled in as a frontrunner to acquire him. In fact, according to Shams Charania, the Lakers even made a big offer, putting their unprotected 2027 and 2029 first-round picks on the table along with Russell Westbrook to make the money work.
The Nets, however, also wanted Austin Reaves, Max Christie and pick swaps in the deal. That, of course, did not happen, and Irving instead went to the Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and multiple future second-rounders.
That the Nets seemingly took a lesser offer from the Mavericks, combined with a report from Marc Stein that Nets owner Joe Tsai did not want to send Irving to the Lakers, only furthered the belief among many fans on social media that there's a "Lakers tax." That is, other teams ask for a higher price from the Lakers in trades because they don't want to help them win.
Pelinka refuted such an idea. Asked if he's gotten a sense of that mindset from other organizations, he was short and to the point: "No I haven't."