After months of rumors and internal organizational hand-wringing about the roster flaws—3-point shooting, lack of point guard depth, the need for a burly perimeter defender—Thursday’s trade deadline came and went without the Lakers making a move.
There were discussions about Robert Covington, but those fizzled once the Wolves got a wealth of youthful assets in the four-team (Wolves, Rockets, Nuggets, Hawks) trade that was the highlight of deadline week. The Lakers poked around some point-guard options (D.J. Augustin, Dennis Schroder, Spencer Dinwiddie) but no deal came close to fruition.
The team’s talks for Knicks forward Marcus Morris were the most serious, but their Staples Center rival, the Clippers, pushed the price tag up and when the Lakers found themselves considering a Morris deal that would send out Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green and more, the purple-and-gold pulled themselves off the brink pulled out of the Morris chase.
Through it all, a source said, the Lakers’ pursuit of roster changes in the past week was half-hearted. And that goes back to the tragic helicopter crash that took the life of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others on January 26, just 11 days ahead of the trade deadline.
While much of the league has begun to move on from Bryant’s death, these Lakers are just in the early stages of that process. Going through the experience together has bonded them and it proved difficult to break that bond within the roster for the sake of some trade or another.
“There was not a lot of appetite for changing things,” one team source said. “There wasn’t a lot of appetite for telling players they’re going to Minnesota or Atlanta or somewhere, Charlotte, wherever. If there’s an offer you can’t say no to, of course, you’re going to take it. But the idea of breaking things up after what’s happened with Kobe, it wasn’t something anyone seemed to want to do.”
Lakers’ Post-Deadline Moves Could be Difficult
That doesn’t mean the Lakers aren’t still in for some hard choices in the coming weeks. They’d like to be active in the buyout market and have been linked to point guard Darren Collison who retired last summer but is considering whether to come back to the NBA this month. Collison, a Southern California native who played at UCLA, would want to play in L.A. with either the Clippers or Lakers.
If the Lakers can land Collison, they’d have to waive someone. The Lakers hope to keep DeMarcus Cousins in free agency next year but that doesn’t help in the short-term. He has not played all season as he rehabs from an ACL injury.
Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook are the other likely candidates to be waived.
Daniels’ role has been spotty all year but it’s on the decline now. He averaged 15.2 minutes in his first 15 games but shot only 35.5 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from the 3-point line. Daniels has sat out seven of the Lakers’ last 29 games, getting 8.9 minutes when he does play. He’s been a better shooter, though, making 44.4 percent of his 3s in that span.
Cook, similarly, played good minutes early but has not seen the floor much lately. He’s only played in 18 of the Lakers’ last 34 games, an average of 9.2 minutes in that stretch.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James Said Lakers ‘Have Enough’
Of course, Lakers star LeBron James said last month, before the Bryant tragedy, that he did not feel the Lakers needed to do anything. At the time, the Lakers were just a few days removed from an embarrassing loss in Boston. James was asked whether the Lakers needed another piece.
“We have enough right now,” James said, according to the L.A. Times. “But it’s not about competing and worrying about June, it’s about worrying about January. And if we continue to get better throughout January and we move on to February and continue to get better.”
Bryant supposedly felt the same way. After his death, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said that in a conversation with Bryant on New Year’s Eve in Bel Aire, Bryant told him, “We have enough.”
“That’s all I needed to hear,” Smith said.
Apparently, for now at least, it was all the Lakers needed to hear, too.