Lakers newsletter: What’s going on with the Lakers and Christian Wood?

Mavericks forward Christian Wood raises his arms and looks at the crowd after scoring
The Lakers could sign former Mavericks forward Christian Wood, but they may have competition for his services.
(Emil T. Lippe / Associated Press)
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Hey everyone, it’s Dan Woike back from Summer League in Vegas with the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter. This week, we tackle the biggest question currently facing the Lakers — the player most of you seem to want. Here’s what I’m hearing about Christian Wood …

Taking Woodshop

Rob Pelinka, in a moment of clarity, made it clear what kind of player the Lakers are looking for with their likely final addition via free agency this offseason.


“We don’t want to sign someone who replicates the skills that Jaxson Hayes has,” Pelinka said at the NBA’s Summer League this month. “So if we can diversify the big position and have different looks, that would be good.”

He didn’t say “Christian Wood,” but he basically could’ve. The Lakers and the talented but perpetually available big man have been walking down the same road toward one another for more than a week. During the last three seasons, Wood has averaged 18.1 points on 50.9% shooting and 38.1% shooting from three-point range. He’s grabbed 8.9 rebounds and blocked 1.1 shots per game — excellent statistics for a modern big.

So why aren’t they sprinting toward each other?

Late-stage free agency is a tough one, in which factors outside of the Lakers’ control can make an impact.

According to sources familiar with the team’s free-agent pursuits but not authorized to speak publicly, the Chicago Bulls are suddenly viewed as a potential threat that could keep the Lakers from landing Wood.

The reason? Chicago recently got a $10.2-million player exception because of Lonzo Ball’s knee injury that’s expected to keep him off the court next season. The Bulls can use some or all of that money to acquire a player via trade or sign a player to a one-year free-agent deal.

And, this might be surprising, but with the Lakers able to offer only the veteran’s minimum (worth $2,463,490 for a player with seven years of service time), there’s more financial incentive elsewhere. There’s also a stigma that exists among players that once you take a vet minimum deal, you price yourself into that category. While it’s not impossible to get a raise in free agency (i.e. Dennis Schroder this offseason in Toronto), once you set your price as a bargain, it’s tough to set a new one.


Sources also believe that the Miami Heat could be a suitor for Wood, particularly if they’re able to pull off a Damian Lillard trade. The Heat were rumored to be in the market for Dario Saric before he picked Golden State and the Lakers had interest in Saric as well.

While teams love Wood’s talent and offensive skills, there are reasons why he’s available.

“If LeBron [James] can get him to toe the line, it cements LeBron as the greatest player of all time,” one NBA source said. “That’s how hard it is.”

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Among players listed as centers on, only nine have ever averaged at least 16.5 points, seven rebounds and 1.5 made threes on 37% shooting for a season. Of those nine, only Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and Wood have done it multiple times.

Towns and Porzingis each will make more than $36 million next season. How’s it possible the Lakers would get Wood for less than $2.5 million?

Sources around the league point to two major deficiencies. One, despite the blocked shots, Wood’s contributions on defense are lacking, frustrating former coaches and teammates. And two, there seems to be a disconnect between what Wood thinks of his place in the league and how the league as a whole views him. There are related concerns about his professionalism.

It’s telling Dallas elected to let Wood enter free agency without a fight despite a roster built on being competitive now. A floor-spacing, long, athletic big should be an ideal offensive partner for Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic. Instead, he’s unemployed.

There’s risk in signing Wood, that the problems that have put him on seven teams in seven seasons would come with him to Los Angeles. Maybe the market forcing him to accept a minimum contract would lead to more acceptance of his role. Or maybe it would just lead to more grousing about being underused and underappreciated.

The Lakers, though, could be the right kind of team at the right time to get themselves a bargain.

Sources say the team has done significant background work on Wood. Coach Darvin Ham was in Milwaukee when Wood played 13 games there in 2018-19. Anthony Davis played with Wood in New Orleans at the end of that year, as well. Assistant JD DuBois was with Wood in Detroit in 2019-20. Multiple members of last season’s Dallas Mavericks staff have close ties to the Lakers, James and Davis.

The team knows well what he has done, what he hasn’t, what he can and what he can’t. And while there are other big men available who can space the floor — JaMychal Green for instance — no one else has Wood’s ceiling.

It’s why the Lakers are in this: He’s the best player out there with the skills to best complement what the team has built this summer. He’s most equipped to fill in as a starter should Davis miss time.


But that it comes with risks — and requiring a belief that you can help a soon-to-be 28-year-old mature as a person and a player — is good enough reason to move toward Wood with caution.

Song of the week

“This Must Be the Place” by Sure Sure

I love a good cover song, especially one perfect for summer and this rendition of a Talking Heads classic fits that bill. For a player like Wood, stops in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Detroit, Houston and Dallas didn’t work. But maybe, just maybe, this must be the place.

In case you missed it

Maxwell Lewis living an NBA dream that shocks one Lakers-loving fan — his dad

LeBron James is switching his uniform number back to 23 for next season

Scouts and executives rate Lakers’ offseason from ‘very good’ to ‘great’


Will Lakers give LeBron James the Kobe treatment and retire both numbers when he hangs it up?

Two months later, Darvin Ham still finds Steve Kerr’s flopping comments ‘lame as hell’

Lakers star LeBron James will return for 21st NBA season

Coach LeBron James? Lakers star seemed to enjoy coaching son Bryce’s basketball team

Until next time...

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