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The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be major players in the free agent and trade markets this summer.
Armed with a war chest filled with the most salary-cap room in the NBA and young talent in which to build around or to include in possible deals, Los Angeles is looking to make major progress this season.
Lakers co-owner and governor Jeanie Buss conveyed confidence and expressed “complete faith” in team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka to continue the franchise’s rebuild to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
“In the young core and the new guys that we’re adding, I have complete faith in our front office — no matter how they want to build the team, whether it’s through trades or free agency, trades or through the draft — that they’re going to build on the style of play that you saw throughout this year,” Buss said while speaking to reporters before the NBA Awards show in Santa Monica on Monday night.
“Coach Luke Walton has defined what it is to be Lakers basketball going forward and the style that we play. I just want to see continued growth, and I’d really like to be in the playoffs next season. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Los Angeles is hoping to sign a pair of max-contract eligible star players to free-agent deals this summer, the likes of LeBron James and Paul George, when the league’s free-agency period tips off July 1. Budding young players Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, not to mention the Lakers’ storied history and the lights, glamour and glitz that comes with playing in Los Angeles are all expected to enhance the Lakers’ chances of making franchise-enhancing moves this summer.
Buss was asked by reporters how she wanted Johnson and Pelinka to do just that.
“What I had asked them to do a year ago was to really identify a style of play, and once you identify the kind of basketball that will be Lakers basketball going forward, that every decision would then reflect that style,” Buss said. “I think it’s important as an organization that people understand what you stand for. There was a while there where we were a very defensive-minded team. And then we were an offensive-minded team. You really couldn’t really grasp what Laker basketball was about.
“But I think now we have our feet firmly planted on the ground and we’re showing people what we stand for. And the investment that the ownership has made to a training facility like the one we have continues to show that we’re backing up our words.”
Buss recently sent out a cryptic tweet that read, “Do not ever underestimate … Nothing else to say.”
Buss set the record straight on the tweet.
“It was very innocent. I was out to dinner in New York. I was there on NBA business — league business — and I only had a few minutes to change, and luckily I packed a pair of leather pants,” Buss explained through a laugh and a smile.
“And I wouldn’t have had time to, like, iron or steam or anything. I put on my leather pants and it’s like a whole new outfit, and I was going to just tweet, ‘Don’t ever underestimate the power of leather pants for traveling because they don’t wrinkle.’ And I started writing it, and then I realized that just the first sentence was a great tweet even just the way it was.”
All of which points to how important this summer is in what is expected to be the most important summer for the Lakers since 1996, when they acquired Shaquille O’Neal.
“It’s nice to be respected in the industry, [but] I think we have to earn that respect, so it’s really about at the end of the day how many games we win and lose,” Buss said”We’re not there yet, and we’re not going to rest until we’re proud.”
She feels good about the direction the franchise is headed.
“I feel very confident,” she said. “All I asked when Magic came on board was that he defined who we were as a basketball team. And you don’t really see that just from somebody saying this is what it’s gonna be; you see it from the way the decisions are made and how they fit together. You can now see a vision and how things fit together and how it complements our coach in terms of what he wants to play.
“So I have complete confidence in that they know what they’re doing with building a roster.”