Lakers Nearly Traded for 4-Time All-Star, Says Insider

Rob Pelinka, Lakers

Getty Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka faces some difficult decisions as the NBA trade deadline approaches.

The Los Angeles Lakers had a lot of different options on the table this offseason before they landed on a deal for Russell Westbrook. According to The Athletic’s Bill Oram, Shams Charania and Sam Amick, DeMar DeRozan was under the impression that he would be joining the Lakers at one point this summer. There was mutual interest as Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka considered pulling the trigger on a sign-and-trade with the Spurs for DeRozan.

“Sources said Pelinka and his front-office group strongly considered executing a sign-and-trade for the 32-year-old DeRozan, giving up Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope in the process, but couldn’t come to consensus terms with the Spurs in free agency or a suitable contract number for DeRozan,” The Athletic detailed. “What’s more, sources say the DeRozan option never advanced to the point that it was presented to Buss.”

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DeRozan Met With James on Multiple Occassions During the Offseason

LeBron James was heavily involved in the Lakers reconstructing their roster this offseason. The Lakers star had a list of players he and his team began brainstorming about how to get to Los Angeles, including DeRozan. The free-agent guard met with James at his house on multiple occasions this offseason.

“One of those potential moves involved DeMar DeRozan, a Compton, Calif., native and former USC star,” The Athletic noted. “He took part in two such meetings at James’ home and had separate ongoing phone conversations with James. His conversations with the Lakers co-stars had gone well, with the then-soon-to-be free agent discussing all the ways in which he thought this new star trio might work.

“With four All-Star Games and a pair of appearances on All-NBA teams to his name, the longtime Toronto Raptor who had spent the previous three seasons with San Antonio, emerged from his meetings with that locker room brain trust believing he was their priority and he might soon be playing in the purple and gold.”

DeRozan Believed There Was a Disconnect Between the Lakers Stars & Front Office

DeRozan may have believed he was headed to the Lakers, but the four-time All-Star also began to question whether there was a disconnect between the team’s stars and front office. Ultimately, the Lakers chose to make a blockbuster deal for Westbrook with several of the pieces that likely would have been involved in a sign-and-trade for DeRozan. The guard later chose to sign a lucrative three-year, $81.9 million with the Bulls.

“Yet as the process unfolded, concerns emerged from DeRozan’s side about a perceived disconnect between the Lakers stars and the front office,” The Athletic explained. “Were the opinions being shared in the player meetings the same as the front office’s view? Did the left hand know, in essence, what the right hand was doing? …Whatever conversations James and Davis had when they encountered other players, they did on their own time and interest.”

Lakers Players Had ‘Excitement’ Over Potentially Playing With DeRozan

The Lakers stars began to have “excitement” over the idea of adding DeRozan to the squad. Unfortunately, DeRozan appears to be one of several players the Lakers courted to “keep as many potential avenues open.”

“There was genuine excitement shared in the player meetings about how DeRozan would fit,” The Athletic added. “Even if he wasn’t the Lakers’ first choice, it was easy to envision a scenario where he would be their best available option. For the Lakers, according to those with knowledge of the situation, it was imperative to keep as many potential avenues open as possible.”

If there is any animosity over how the offseason unfolded, DeRozan will get his first chance at payback on November 15 when the Bulls travel to Los Angeles. Time will tell if the Lakers made the right decision choosing to acquire Westbrook over some of the other possible options like DeRozan. Heading into free agency, DeRozan admitted the Lakers were a strong potential option for the Southern California native.

“It’s all about winning at this point,” DeRozan told Shannon Sharpe on the Club Shay Shay show in July 2021. “Going into my 13th season, seeing all these guys compete for a championship. …You try to balance it [money versus winning] as best as you can, but at this point, you gotta weigh out the opportunity of winning a championship kind of more. Especially with the career I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of money, but at this point, the ultimate goal was always to compete for a championship.”