Has there ever been an NBA general manager who has transitioned from hated to beloved more quickly than Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka has in the course of the last year? Traveling back to last season, no one could quite comprehend what exactly he was doing at the helm.
After a catastrophic 2021-2022 campaign, everyone and their mother was quick to point the finger in Pelinka’s direction. While Jeanie Buss, Frank Vogel, and the players on the court surely deserved some of that blame, Pelinka was the one responsible for ushering the worst trade in franchise history into existence.
Furthermore, he was the artist of an extremely questionable roster prior to that season. He then followed that up with another head-scratching offseason in 2022, putting together a roster that was short on shooters and genuine difference-makers.
Dwelling on past failures is never wise, though. Rather, learning from them is the route to improvement. Through the team’s early struggles last season, everyone was curious as to when Pelinka would make something happen. It seemed inevitable, but at the start of the New Year nothing had happened and fans were beginning to worry if anything was actually going to.
A few weeks into 2023, the silence was finally lifted. In a bit of a surprising move, Rui Hachimura was acquired from Washington in January. The following month, Pelinka coordinated a heist of a transaction that brought D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley to town.
More importantly, the lingering cloud that was hovering above the Lakers in the form of Russell Westbrook disappeared. These guys were all major additions to the team, but the biggest addition to the overall formula may have actually been the subtraction of Russ from the equation.
It was clear that Pelinka was putting in work behind the scenes, and fans’ patience with him eventually paid off. After an abysmal first half of the season, the post-deadline team came together to close the season strongly. They may not have won a championship, but a trip to the Western Conference Finals was something that nobody could have seen coming in early January.
Those guys collectively united when they came together, and it did not take long for them to build chemistry. After their accomplishments in such a short time frame, many were excited about what these guys could do together after having ample time to gel. For example, D’Lo had positive visions for the future of this franchise if the team that closed last season together were brought back.
Russell’s wishes for continuity were later granted, as the core group from the 2023 postseason run was retained. Plus there was a quality cast of reinforcements brought in to support them. Given they received the chance to fully acclimate in advance with their first training camp together, the NBA world figured the team could be en route to another long championship run. So far, the NBA world’s assumptions have not necessarily been supported.
The opening stretch of the 2023-2024 season has highlighted many areas of concern within the foundation of the Lakers. Shooting, rebounding, and health (surprise, surprise) have been among the most glaring issues holding them back. Austin Reaves has not yet taken the type of leap many assumed he would. With so many red flags already being exposed, rumors have begun to swirl regarding the team’s need and interest in acquiring a third star from the Windy City.
The Los Angeles Lakers must execute patience
Zach Lavine could realistically be a perfect complement to slot next to LeBron and AD. Stopping those three alone would be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
While the idea of his acquisition is tantalizing, the reality of the situation is that LakerNation as a whole has a history of impatience. We are roughly a month into the season, and the team has remained .500 despite an onslaught of injuries.
Austin Reaves has slowly gotten better and better as time has gone on. Cam Reddish has escaped an ugly start to capture the hearts of Laker fans. Gabe Vincent cannot play as poorly as he has forever.
Rob Pelinka needs to give this roster some time before making any drastic changes, and the fanbase needs to endure the growing pains. This is still a team that has the shell of everything you need to win a championship.
Zach Lavine would be a big-time addition to this team, but this might already be a big-time team in the making without him.