After a disappointing 2021-22 season that ended without even making a trip to the play-in round, Los Angeles Lakers He is expected to make major changes ahead of the 2022-23 campaign. And to some extent they did. With only five players returning from last season, but Russell Westbrook among them, the core problems of limited depth, defense and shooting that plagued the Lakers a season ago continue to plague the purple and gold. So until the Lakers prove they don’t need to make another move, expectations will be relatively low.

On Monday, all of the team’s key figures tried to do just that. New head coach Darvin Hamm, president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the entire roster (save Dennis Schroder, who is dealing with visa issues) talked about their nightmare season, what’s still to come, and everything else at media day. between Here are the biggest takeaways from media day as the Lakers try to get back into the championship picture.

The Lakers have two first round picks… for the right return

The biggest question of the season was when the Lakers first traded Westbrook. As the months passed, it changed why Westbrook wasn’t traded. There were many theories. Hamm made it clear that he had a plan for Westbrook, so maybe he wasn’t as bullish about sending him off as others. they said Clear financial motivation Westbrook to keep. And of course, the dreaded Lakers tax, the premium teams cost the NBA’s most popular team at bargain prices, especially when they’re desperate.

But Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, and the simplest explanation here is that Westbrook is widely viewed as a negative asset and the Chargers don’t want to give up assets just to get him off the team. Giving back anything of value would mean giving up both of their available first-round picks. Pelinka has made it clear that he is willing to give these choices.

“One thing to be clear, there has been a lot of speculation, will the Lakers trade their pick? Will they not trade their pick? Let me be very clear: We have one of the greatest players in LeBron James to play the game on our team. He has committed to a long-term contract, a three-year contract for us. So LeBron “We’ll do everything we can to make deals that give us the opportunity to help get it. He’s committed to our organization to the end. That has to be a bipartisan commitment, and it’s there.”

Here’s where things get tricky: As this season has proven, he doesn’t give up those picks for the sake of doing it. As Pelinka pointed out, “You have one shot to trade multiple picks, so if you make that trade, and I’m not talking about any player on our team, but if you make that trade, it has to be the right one. You have one shot to do it. We are in a way that improves the record.

The implication is that the Lakers aren’t satisfied with the offers on the table. The report says the two major deals discussed include a choice of Myles Turner and Buddy Hield from Indiana or Bojan Bogdanovic and other role players. Jazz. The Lakers might have traded Westbrook if Kyrie Irving was truly on the table, but all signs point to him not being, and he’s set to play out the final year of his contract in Brooklyn. If the Lakers are waiting for another player of Irving’s caliber to become available, well, they might never trade. Role player deals are available throughout the season. Ultimately, the Lakers will have to decide how much of an offseason they will sacrifice to secure the perfect trade.

Presence is the best ability.

Over the past two seasons, LeBron James has only played in 101 games. Anthony Davis played even less, 76. The Lakers have no chance of competing without their two best players. Keeping them healthy is a priority this season and Hamm has promised to do his part. The new coach doesn’t need LeBron or AD playing playoff minutes in October, November or December. Hamm, in particular, is coming from Milwaukee, where head coach Mike Budenholzer is short on minutes for the Stars. Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t topped 33 minutes in a game since Budenholzer took over as Milwaukee’s coach.

James typically resists reducing his workload. “This whole LeBron needs more rest,” James said, “or I think I need to rest a lot or take time here, he’s gotten a lot bigger than he really is.” He told reporters. In the year After losing to Washington in 2021. “I’ve never talked about it, I don’t talk about it, I don’t believe it. We all need more rest, s— It’s a quick change from last season, and we all wish we could. I can get more rest. But I’m here to work, to hit the clock and be ready for my teammates.” here i am.

But James sang a different tune at media day. James said he is fully healthy after an injury-plagued season and said, “I’m just going to focus on getting my game.” What that means remains to be seen, but on a team loaded with ball handlers, the Lakers will be hoping to limit his minutes as he approaches his 38th birthday.

The new culture

basis For Anthony Davis, the Lakers had training camp shirts with the word “chip” on them to represent the chip the team has on his shoulder. For the first time since Davis arrived in Los Angeles, the Lakers are underdogs. They are not a super team or defending champion. They’re just trying to make sure they’re in the game. That seems to have changed the culture of the team as a whole.

No player embodies that culture more than Patrick Beverley. When Beverly discussed what went wrong last season, as an outsider, he mentioned “need” as something that worked against them. “Are they going to get back on defense? Are they willing to do the little things? I didn’t think like that with the class they had last season. That’s not a credit to anybody. But as a basketball player, I feel like I have a top. 10, top-11 mind when it comes to IQ in basketball. Player coming in, I, I didn’t know if they had the need factor, if they wanted to drive the extra. To get on the floor, to get dirty, to scrape your knees to get a loose ball. I didn’t know that, going into this team as a leader, if you don’t do it, I will. Hopefully, they’ll pick it up from there.

Beverley has a history of instilling that kind of culture in the teams he plays for. He embodies the underdog spirit the Lakers must now embrace. For now, he’s a guy who does these things constantly. If the Lakers are going to win anything this season, that should rub off on the rest of the team.

Business relationship

While Westbrook parted ways with longtime agent Thad Futcher this offseason, Futcher’s statement indicated that Westbrook simply does not want to stay in Los Angeles. The feeling was by no means mutual. But as Westbrook explained Monday, it ultimately doesn’t matter.

“Whether you want me here or not, it doesn’t matter. My job is to be professional, to show my work as I’ve always done it, to do my job the way I know how, and that’s it. As you can see in other jobs around the world, you’ve all had jobs at times that people at our jobs didn’t like or want. Do my job and do it the best way I know how to support and take care of my family, and that’s what I’m going to do.

A good testament to his relationship with the Lakers, that wasn’t it. Pelinka went out of his way to praise Westbrook, but the fact remains that he’s on the roster without a salary worth $47 million this season. If the Lakers are going to trade those two first-round picks for Pelinka for the right offer, Westbrook should almost certainly be in the deal.

Until the end? The future is not clear. Hamm declined to commit to a starting lineup, but spoke positively about Westbrook’s outlook this season. “It was cool,” Hamm said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked of him. It’s all about being unselfish, being team-oriented, being defensive.” Of course, these were recurring talking points prior to last season. Lakers fans could be forgiven for not believing it until they saw it.

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