LOS ANGELES — After a quiet trade deadline on Thursday, Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka explained his team’s inactivity.
“You can’t buy a house that’s not for sale,” Pelinka said before L.A.’s 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets. “We spend a lot of time looking for ways to use assets to make our team better. But the right move wasn’t there.”
The Lakers, despite countless calls — both outgoing and incoming — in the days and weeks leading up to the deadline were not particularly close on any deals on Thursday, sources told ESPN. There was no traction on a trade for Atlanta Hawks point guard Dejounte Murray on Thursday, sources said, which was a deal that was circled for weeks between the two franchises but never landed.
Ultimately, L.A. did not want to shortchange its future — parting with its only movable future draft pick (2029) now for a “marginal” improvement, in Pelinka’s words — and lose out on the chance to aggregate that pick for a bigger deal this summer when it will have three future first rounders available to trade when the NBA calendar resets in the summer.
“In terms of what was available at the trade deadline, we had one first-round draft pick,” Pelinka said. “It was our only sort of hook to fish with. And this summer in June, we, at the time of the draft, we’ll have three first-round draft picks to look for deals, which I think will really unlock an access to potentially a greater or bigger swing.”
L.A. has one roster spot open and plans to fill it on the buyout market in order to improve in the interim.
“There’s a really good group of names available in the looming buyout market,” Pelinka said. “Thankfully under the new [collective bargaining agreement], we’re in a position where we can be buyout players. Some teams can’t sign buyout players at a certain level of spending. So we’re going to look for ways to upgrade our team there.”
The Lakers are considered to be among the front-runners to sign guard Spencer Dinwiddie when he clears waivers. Dinwiddie was traded from Brooklyn to Toronto on Thursday and the Raptors don’t plan to have him as part of their future.
“We tried everything we could, and again, the market is the market,” Pelinka said. “There was very, very few sellers. I don’t think today, on the deadline day, there were many marquee players moved. There were a lot of buyers and, as everyone knows, when the market has few sellers and tons of buyers, the prices are very, very aggressive. And sometimes no move is better than an unwise move.”
Pelinka said he spoke to LeBron James prior to the trade deadline and James’ message to him was he would fulfill his responsibility to lead the Lakers group as far as they could go, no matter who is on the roster.
James, when asked after the Nuggets game if he believed L.A. could make a run if Jarred Vanderbilt (foot), Cam Reddish (knee) and Gabe Vincent (knee) can return healthy, was unable to answer the question.
“I don’t know,” James said. “Haven’t gotten to that point. So it’s hard to say.”
“I think first we just have to get healthy,” Anthony Davis said, when asked about what it will take for the Lakers to make a playoff push. “We lose Max, Vando, D-Lo, Gabe. So we have to get healthy.”
Davis was asked the team feels any pressure to compete for a championship this late in James’ career, and the Lakers big man admitted, somewhat soberly, that the team is far from that right now.
“I think we all want to win,” Davis said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at it like. For us right now, it’s just about winning the next game. We can’t look too far ahead in the future. Obviously that’s the end goal, to win every year, but there’s a lot of things that we have to clean up before we even think about competing for a championship.”