Where Do The Lakers Go From Here?

If you know a Lakers fan, you might want to go check up on them. In devastating fashion, GM Rob Pelinka completely whiffed on trading for superstar Kyrie Irving. In what could’ve been a reunion with former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate LeBron James, the Brooklyn Nets instead traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the deal that could’ve been completed with Los Angeles would’ve been centered around Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and LA’s first-round picks. However, the Nets counter-offered with the addition of Austin Reaves and other assets. The Lakers declined.

To say this is disappointing for Laker nation is an understatement. At 25-29, good for 13th in the Western Conference, the Lakers are in the worst possible position of any team in the NBA right now. On paper, this is one of the more talented teams in the NBA. Just having a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis on your team automatically puts you in contention for the playoffs, at the very least.

Keyword: healthy. Davis can’t stay on the court, so James is doing it all by himself. Westbrook, now coming off of the bench, is playing solid basketball. He knows his role, putting up 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game, and can be seen as a positive energy on the sidelines when he isn’t playing. The only problem is his $47.06 million salary. It’s just way too much for a 34-year-old role player with more questions about his play style than answers.

In an interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, James was extremely professional discussing his thoughts on the failed Irving-to-LA trade, saying that although disappointed, he’s ready to “move on” and focus on the task at hand with his current situation.

Honestly, credit to the eventual all-time scoring leader for being so content. But he’s been through this before. In his first stint with the Cavaliers, they failed to put any sort of star talent around him (his best teammate was Mo freaking Williams), which resulted in his decision to go to the Miami Heat. After returning to Cleveland, he definitely had talent from 2014-2017, but in his final season with the Cavaliers, his best teammate in his now-infamous Finals run was arguably Tristan Thompson (yes, career role-player Tristan Thompson).

Now, in Los Angeles, James finds himself in a similar situation. Besides an injury-prone Davis, Rob Pelinka has managed to surround James with past-their-prime veterans and has failed in giving the 37-year-old any sort of talent to truly compete in this star-driven league. We should all applaud James for reacting in such a nonchalant manner.

So where do the Lakers go from here? The NBA trade deadline isn’t until Thursday, February 9, so the Lakers could still get a deal done to bring in some talent for a late push into the playoffs. Not to mention, even if things don’t work out this season, Kyrie Irving, although just being traded, is still a free agent this off-season. With Westbrook in the final year of his gargantuan contract, Pelinka will have the salary cap to either sign Irving, or trade for another superstar, no matter how much money they may cost.

Even though they whiffed on an Irving-James reunion, there’s still hope that this team can make the playoffs, and there’s no doubt that if they do end up in the postseason, everyone will be watching because you simply can’t count out a team that has LeBron James. Yes, you can panic, Laker fans, but it’s not over just yet.

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Jed Katz is currently a Journalism student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from Bergen County, NJ, Katz was a writer and editor for the Northern Highlands Regional HS newspaper, as well as a sports anchor for the morning show. He's been invested in the game for years, both being a basketball junkie and playing as a 2-year varsity basketball player. Katz produces content surrounding the NBA, NCAA, and premier high school hoops.