Rob Pelinka, the man in charge of putting the pieces together for the Lakers, was succinct while discussing what the franchise’s focus.
Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manger and vice president of basketball operations, spoke to media Tuesday night before the 22-26 Lakers hosted the Clippers at Crypto.com Arena. While introducing newly acquired forward Rui Hachimura, Pelinka said “the calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There’s no in-between or incremental growth. So as we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens.”
To achieve that goal this season, Pelinka would have to make another trade to give LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who appears to be close to returning to play, the help they need.
Pelinka will do his due diligence right up until the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline, looking at ways he can make the Lakers better.
The Lakers have two valuable first-round draft picks, in 2027 and 2029, and teams are looking at those as capital for any potential deal.
“Of course, this is the time of year, with the trade deadline a couple weeks away, where we’re canvassing the league on ways to get better,” Pelinka said. “With me, that’s talking to all 29 other teams and their GMs and just keeping a cadence, checking in every few days. That’s something that all the teams are doing this time of year.”
What the Lakers can look forward to is the return of Davis, who missed his 20th straight game with a right foot stress injury. He has been ramping up his work the last few days, playing five-on-five.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham was pressed after the team lost to the Clippers Tuesday night about Davis playing against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at home.
“I’ll just say it like this: Once we get our evaluation done in the morning, the possibilities are limitless,” Ham said.
In the loop
Pelinka was asked how much he talks to his two stars, James and Davis, as the trade deadline approaches.
“I think we’ve said before our captains, LeBron and Anthony Davis, are always involved in what Coach Ham is doing, what the front office is doing,” Pelinka said. “At the same time, I think LeBron said it really well at the press conference the other night when he said, ‘My job is to play basketball. The front office’s job is to do their job and build a roster. And Coach Ham’s job is to coach.’ I agree with that. We all have to do our jobs and do them with excellence and all be together. That’s how we operate and will continue to operate.”
After he had scored 46 points, his fourth time scoring 40-plus points in a game this season, and made a career-high nine three-pointers, James was asked about Pelinka involving the star forward in trade discussions.
“Rob is going to do his job, that’s his job,” James said. “My job is to be out on the floor and make sure my guys are locked in and ready to go.”