Lakers’ GM predicts more help for LeBron
EL SEGUNDO, California (AP):
LeBron James is once again getting to the gym at dawn and putting in long hours as he prepares to begin his 21st NBA season.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka believes they have assembled a roster that will allow the top scorer in NBA history to rest a bit easier this year.
"I think we were very intentional about the versatility that this roster has, the depth that the roster has," Pelinka said Thursday. "There are upgrades (in) spacing and shooting, top to bottom. That was all done knowing LeBron is going into the 21st year.
"We have to partner with him to help get him to the end because that's his goal. Adding the depth, the versatility, the shooting, all of those things help us manage that."
Indeed, the Lakers kept most of last season's roster and supplemented it with several promising additions to build a complete contender around James and Anthony Davis, who will lead their teammates back to training camp next week.
After watching his team go 18-8 out of the trade deadline before winning a play-in game and two postseason rounds, Pelinka wanted to see what this group could do with a full year together.
With full seasons from midseason acquisitions D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura alongside five new veterans, the Lakers appear to have their strongest roster since raising their last championship banner in late 2020.
"We have, top to bottom, what we feel like is a highly balanced, skilled, athletic, younger team of guys that have logged a ton of NBA minutes," coach Darvin Ham said.
"We can surround both (James) and AD with these players who are coming in eager to contribute and show they can impact winning. That will make us more efficient with (James') game-to-game minutes. He was grandfathered in by the rest rule. I was happy to see that."
Indeed, James is among a handful of highly experienced NBA veterans allowed to have special rest exemptions under the league's new player participation policy, designed to compel teams to put their top players in more games. But Pelinka and Ham both spoke in favour of the policy. They don't anticipate James or Davis missing many games - when they're healthy, which was never a given in recent seasons.
Los Angeles retained Davis, Russell, Austin Reaves, Vanderbilt and Hachimura from last season's Western Conference finalists while acquiring Jaxson Hayes, Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish and Christian Wood.
The Lakers' biggest financial commitment was a three-year, US$186 million extension for Davis, the gifted big man who has been outstanding in Los Angeles when he isn't dealing with injuries.
"He's only 30 years old, so there's a huge, huge road still ahead of him in how he can lead the franchise and, hopefully, put some more banners up here," Ham said. "I'm excited for the type of year he's going to have."