Rob Pelinka: Lakers May Use Salary Cap Space To Re-Sign Players, Not...

Rob Pelinka: Lakers May Use Salary Cap Space To Re-Sign Players, Not Just Attempt To Lure Superstar Free Agents

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Rob Pelinka Magic Johnson Lakers
AP Photo/Nick Ut

The Los Angeles Lakers planning to chase multiple superstar free agents this summer in order to attempt to get them to embark on a superhero team-up is seen as pretty common knowledge around the NBA.

The Lakers have made no secret of how much cap space they’ll boast this summer, and it’s also easy to connect the dots and see that they could have room to offer two max-contracts if they move on from at least two of Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng and Julius Randle.

L.A. has even reportedly shopped the aforementioned players in the pursuit of more cap space, among others.

But even if the Lakers succeed and free up the most salary cap room possible without gutting their young core, general manager Rob Pelinka said during an appearance on Spectrum SportsNet’s “Connected With…” that the team wouldn’t necessarily use that money to sign superstars:

“You know, it’s interesting. When we decided to trade the Timofey Mozgov contract and ended up getting the pick for Kyle Kuzma, that trade opened up massive cap health and flexibility for us for this July. Everyone knows that; all the writers and outside GMs that are commenting on our team. What people, I think have to grasp now that we’re approaching that time, we could use that in many different ways. Flexibility is a great thing to have. Especially, we’re in a cap system right now in the NBA where most teams are jammed up and don’t have flexibility or room. We’re one of the few teams that does. And so, the pathway we’re on right now, that Magic, Jeanie, Luke and myself see, we’re on a path of improvement and growth.

We have an incredibly promising young core of players that our fans love to watch and love to grow with. We may stay on that path, or with our cap flexibility, if we have a chance to attract a megastar or free agent that can change things immediately, of course we have to look at it. We have the flexibility to do it. Or we could pivot and say, ‘Hey, this cap flexibility gives us a chance to grow our core and sign our free agents.’ The great thing is, whatever direction we go, we have this promising, young group. You’ve got to stay the course, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to let it grow. And if the right free agents come along that can help foster that, we’ll go for it. Or we’ll use [cap space] to re-sign our own guys.”

This is one of the few times the Lakers have openly acknowledged there is a chance they might not fulfill their much-rumored dreams to pair LeBron James and Paul George, and the first time in recent memory the team has implied they could bring back their own free agents like Randle.

However, Pelinka is also a smart man who knows the value of leverage, and the lack of value of a lack thereof. If other NBA teams think the Lakers are desperate to sign a superstar, then they can demand more in trades where they’re taking on the Lakers’ unwanted contracts.

A change in the front office’s public message could also help the Lakers’ inter-team dynamics, given that there have been scattered reports of dysfunction within the locker room related to players feeling insecure over the way the franchise is approaching the offseason to come.

While one contradiction from Pelinka won’t totally change what everyone expects the Lakers’ plan to be, it might be the start of a tone shift in the message that has been coming from the front office since basically the moment they were hired that could help them both internally and externally as they pursue that goal.

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