Lakers newsletter: Will some new blood help the Lakers?

D.J. Augustin, right, keeps the ball from Anthony Davis earlier this season. Augustin is with the Lakers now.
Houston Rockets guard D.J. Augustin, right, keeps the ball from Anthony Davis earlier this season. Augustin is with the Lakers now.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hey everyone, it’s Dan Woike with the Los Angeles Times, excited to be back after a brief hiatus from the Lakers newsletter. Since we last spoke, we’ve seen the franchise have a near-meltdown full of insinuations and denials and backtracks. Problems, undoubtedly, are afoot.

But maybe some new blood will matter.

Let’s get to it.

Finally, some changes

D.J. Augustin was in the car, trying to quiet his young children. Wenyen Gabriel was standing outside the airport, stalling for time before putting his luggage on a plane headed to Grand Rapids, Mich.


Wednesday, they were both on the Lakers.

Earlier this week? They were just two players on the cruel fringes of the NBA hoping to find a place for themselves in the world’s most exclusive basketball league.

“When this opportunity came,” Augustin said, “I just couldn’t pass it up.”

Augustin, who was waived by the Rockets at the NBA’s trade deadline, was spending time at home with his four children, the kind of stay-at-home parenting that’s impossible for NBA players. After leaving the Rockets, Augustin said he had other conversations, doors elsewhere that might be opening.

He waited for the right one — and then the Lakers called. He rushed to throw some stuff in a bag and headed for Los Angeles, unsure of what he even packed beyond a couple of pairs of Kobe Bryant’s signature Nikes.

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“I was like. ‘I’ll just’ — as bad as it sounds — ‘I’m just going to buy some new stuff when I get there,’ ” Augustin said. “That’s how I looked at it because it happened so fast.”

Augustin, like Gabriel, is expected to be in uniform and available to debut for the Lakers on Thursday. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he wasn’t sure if either would play.

Augustin has the cleanest path to contributing. He played for Vogel in Indiana and Orlando, and his consistent outside shooting fills a massive need for the Lakers, especially with defenses increasingly clogging the paint.


“He fills a need for what we have with his shooting and playmaking off the bounce,” Vogel said. “So hopefully he can give us that type of lift.”

The team waived DeAndre Jordan to make room for Augustin.

It’s the first significant roster move since the Lakers signed Stanley Johnson. Rival executives around the NBA have been critical of the Lakers’ inaction to this point, saying the team focused too much on bigger deals instead of recognizing that even small improvements anywhere on the roster would matter for a team with so many needs.

It’s possible Augustin’s shooting and experience operating in smaller lineups will give the Lakers some help.

And Gabriel, who signed a two-way deal, is exactly the kind of player the Lakers don’t have enough of — an athletic, young wing who can hopefully inject some speed and energy to the Lakers’ mostly old age.

In limited NBA action over five stops around the league, Gabriel’s shot the ball pretty well while showing enough to continue getting looks.

Both players saw what the Lakers added in the offseason, and while both have witnessed their new team struggle, there’s a belief that there’s still time to flip things around.


“Just like the fans, as players we see all these signings and things like that in the summertime and we were like, ‘Whoa, the Lakers, they’re loaded. A championship team.’ So obviously, that’s what you see,” Augustin said. “… But when it comes to winning a championship, it’s just who plays the best in those moments. Who plays the best in the playoffs. And it doesn’t really matter who is on your team. It’s who comes together at the right time and plays the right way, that’s what builds championships.”

Who knows if the Lakers can build toward that point, but new faces with new skills certainly can’t hurt, especially with so many areas of need up and down the roster.

Song of the week

Soccer Mommy — “Circle the Drain

With the final quarter of the season here, it’s time to either watch the Lakers rally or to see the season circle the drain. If it’s the latter, let’s hope it’s as dreamy as this one from the Nashville songstress’ second album.

In case you missed it

Even after another tough loss, LeBron James and Lakers aren’t giving up on season

Plaschke: The Lakers must trade LeBron James. It sounds crazy, but it’s the best path forward.


Hernández: For better or worse, Lakers need to keep LeBron James

LeBron James: ‘I see myself being in the purple and gold as long as I can play’

Rare Kobe Bryant card sells for a record $2 million

Five storylines to look for as Lakers attempt a playoff push down the stretch

News Analysis: Why Lakers should take LeBron James’ subtle NBA All-Star weekend comments seriously

Book Excerpt: The night 13-year-old Kobe Bryant met Michael Jordan, and his future


Until next time...

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