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Even having reeled in the biggest fish in the NBA free-agent market by signing LeBron James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Lakers vow to remain disciplined in terms of maintaining their salary-cap space to be able to pursue a second max-level player next summer.
Magic Johnson admits James’ arrival has sped up the Lakers’ three-year rebuilding plan, taking it to “a whole nother level,” but said the franchise’s timetable for rebuilding has set the stage to reach yet another level next season.
“If we feel there’s somebody out there or a deal to be made to make our team better, then we’ll do it as long as it’s a great deal for us,” Johnson said during a conference call Friday, as reported by Ohm Younmisuk of ESPN. “If it’s not, we have our team and we’ll go to battle, go to war with this team. We feel really good about this team.
“Then we’ll have enough room for next summer to give another player a max deal. [General manager] Rob [Pelinka] and I, we already put the strategy together. LeBron of course changed some of that, but we’re still going to stay disciplined and hope we’ll be a team that can have a championship run for a long time.”
Johnson said the Lakers will be conferring with James before making more additions, terming the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and three-time champion the “greatest player” and “greatest leaders in sports.”
“That’s why you have guys that are superstars in this league. You want to have a line of communication and want to know what they’re thinking,” Johnson said. “LeBron, we’ve done that with the guys we brought in. He’s done an excellent job of giving us great feedback. We will continue to do that. The ultimate decision maker on the team and who we bring in is me. I take that to [Lakers president] Jeanie [Buss] and see what she says and whether she signs off or not.”
Johnson admits it will take time for things to come together for the Lakers, having added James, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee to go with core players Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
“I think one thing that we have to, and the fans have to be patient about, is the chemistry on the court,” Johnson said. “Because we’re putting together, basically all these guys will be new to each other, playing with each other, right? So it’s probably going to take us at least a month or two, probably closer to two months to really understand how to play with each other and how to feed each other, all those things.
“We saw that LeBron and Miami struggled for the first two months or so when he was in Miami, then they finally got together and they were a championship-caliber team,” he continued.
“And I’m sure when he went back to Cleveland in the beginning, they struggled until they got to know each other and then they were a championship-caliber team. It will be no different here: We’ll struggle to understand how to play with each other and where everybody likes the ball and those types of things, but eventually we’ll get it together and I feel we’ll be one of the best teams in the West.”