The Lakers believe they can compete for titles sooner rather than later.
Los Angeles finished 2018-19 with a 37-45 record and missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season. But, the team still has star LeBron James under contract for at least two more years and will have max cap space this summer. Los Angeles will also pick fourth in the 2019 NBA Draft after jumping up in the lottery.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said at a press conference Monday he thinks the team will have a chance to acquire a star in the offseason.
“I think if people take a look at where this franchise is right now,” Pelinka said, via ESPN. “We have a high draft pick. We have a great young core, maybe one of the best in the league. We have a superstar on our team, and an open slot. So, I think people can look at this as an opportunity to win a championship possibly next year.”
The Lakers entered the season with high expectations after James left the Cavaliers and signed a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the team in July. Los Angeles opened with a 20-14 record before James strained his groin Dec. 25. He missed the next 17 games and the team never recovered.
Los Angeles also dealt with injuries to key role players — including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma — throughout 2018-19.
“We know the characteristics and qualities we stand for,” Pelinka said. “And we know as a staff and feel very strongly that if people judge and evaluate us for who we are as an organization and the vision and path we have going forward, we feel there will be a very, very strong appeal for the great players to come here.”
Magic Johnson, who shockingly stepped down from his position as the Lakers president of basketball operations before the team’s final game of the season, blasted Pelinka and accused him of “backstabbing” during an interview earlier Monday on ESPN’s “First Take.”
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 20, 2019
Pelinka denied Johnson’s accusations at the press conference — which was held to introduce new Lakers coach Frank Vogel.