This summer will be a very important time for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Coming off of a rebuilding season, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and his front office staff will have an opportunity to make a splash on the free agent market.
With just $34.6 million in guaranteed salaries tied up for next season (including Luol Deng’s $18 million), the Lakers have just one restricted free agent to deal with: Julius Randle.
Randle took a major step forward last season, emerging as a legitimate NBA starter with the capability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. But, the team will likely have to make a major decision regarding his future since another franchise could send him a maximum offer sheet that LA would have to match in order to keep him.
In addition to Deng, the young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart are all signed through next season, while the Lakers hold team options on Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant.
Therefore, there’s a possibility that the team moves forward with just Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart from last year’s club. The main focus will be signing two high-profile free agents, most notably LeBron James and Paul George.
Luckily for Lakers, their location, market, young core and historic value speaks for itself. Therefore, it should be an attractive free agent destination. But, since a number of the team’s former legends are still alive and very active within the NBA community, the organization could ask one or more of them to reach out or even actively attend meetings in order to sweeten the situation.
A living legend
One of those players is Kobe Bryant, but he appears to have some reservations about the entire process.
When asked by Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype if he’d lobby on behalf of the Lakers, Bryant replied, “Well, no. I mean, I’ll call, but I’m not going to be in the meeting. Listen, I’m not part of the organization in any kind of professional way, right? If the players themselves have questions, [I’ll talk to them]. Or if the Lakers want me to reach out and call a player or something like that – if they want me to talk to the player and give my two cents on what it was like to play here and what this market is like – I’ll certainly do that. But in terms of being part of the meeting in any official way? The answer is no.”
It’s obvious that Bryant’s time in the spotlight is gone and that he doesn’t want much to do with the front office dealings of his former team.
“Rob and Magic both have great flexibility when it comes to the cap and they have great young talent. And I’ve known Rob for a long time; this dude is as smart as they come, so he’ll figure it out,” he said regarding Rob Pelinka and Johnson’s ability to get the job done.
It will be fascinating to see who, if anyone, the Lakers are able to snag once the free agent period begins.