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Lakers stand pat after Kyle Lowry deal falls through

Philadelphia 76ers forward Danny Green shoots as Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma defends.
Philadelphia 76ers forward Danny Green shoots as Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma defends during the first half on Thursday at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The trade the Lakers make says plenty about the team the Lakers have, the one they want and, ultimately, the one they might not get.

On a day when the team couldn’t strike a deal for All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, the Lakers made strong inferences about what’s ahead for a team that’s still not close to having either of its stars back on the court.

The major sticking point in the deal, according to people familiar with the situation, was the inclusion of 20-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker, a player the team and its biggest stars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — have incredibly high hopes for.

But what if the Lakers wouldn’t make the deal for other reasons? What if they thought their title window this season wasn’t open enough to cash in their biggest chip? What if the recovery time necessary for Davis and James is significant enough that this isn’t the right time?

It probably was all in play for the Lakers’ front office, who are know echoing coach Frank Vogel’s words with their plan, an organization committed to moving forward mostly with the pieces they have.

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“There’s a strong belief in the team that we have here when we’re at full strength,” Vogel said before the Lakers’ 109-101 loss to Philadelphia.

“And there’s a strong belief that we can win enough games to keep the ship afloat so to speak while Anthony and LeBron are out. We’ve got a lot of confidence in that, a lot of belief in who we’re going to have in uniform tonight, for instance and during this stretch.”

The Lakers did not make any moves at the trade deadline and will now look at the buyout market. Here are four takeaways from Thursday.

Vogel said he had those conversations with general manager Rob Pelinka and senior advisor Kurt Rambis. And they must’ve, to some extent, believed him, even if, as Vogel confirmed pregame, that Davis isn’t close to returning.

“He’s still a ways away,” Vogel said frankly.

They showed they could compete on Thursday, pushing the 76ers as they cut a 18-point lead to two in the final minute with Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all scoring at least 19.

Now more help could be coming.

Big men LaMarcus Aldridge received a buyout, and Cleveland center Andre Drummond is expected to follow. The Lakers will probably also still be on the hunt for more depth on the wing, where they’re definitely in need of more consistent shooting.

Thursday’s talks with Toronto also highlighted the dilemma the organization could be facing with point guard Schroder, who the Lakers traded for prior to the start of the season with the hopes of reaching a contract extension.

The Lakers and Schroder have a wide-enough gulf in those extension talks that the team was comfortable including him in those discussions for Lowry, who, like Schroder, can also be a free agent after this season.

The situation with Schroder comes at a time when the Lakers need him more than they have at any other point this season.

With James and Davis out, he’s the trigger man for the Lakers’ slumping offense. The Lakers, so desperate to get on track, held a shootaround Thursday morning — an extreme rarity for them this season. They used the on-court time Thursday morning before the trade deadline to try and sort out what their identity is minus their superstars.

Schroder’s aggressiveness was obvious, and his energy and quickness was a problem for the Philadelphia 76ers (just not a big enough one).

Changes, even if they didn’t come by trade, were necessary. Marc Gasol returned after a lengthy stay in the NBA’s COVID protocols, and his presence was welcomed. Kuzma dyed his hair blonde (Vogel joked he might try the same to break the losing streak).

The Denver Nuggets acquired Aaron Gordon, the Bulls added Nikola Vucevic and the Clippers brought Rajon Rondo back to L.A. at the NBA trade deadline.

The past was a factor Thursday too. It was Doc Rivers’ first game back in Los Angeles since being fired by the Clippers. He brought Danny Green and Dwight Howard with them, who both got their championship rings and quickly impacted the game in vastly different ways.

Howard, who was a valuable agitator off the Lakers’ bench, got ejected after two technical fouls in six minutes Thursday. The Lakers probably wish he took the affable Green with him, the veteran canning six threes in his first eight attempts as the 76ers built a double-digit lead in the second half.

And in a nice nod to the way things were, the Lakers were permitted to have up to 50 guests attend games, the first “fans” who have been in Staples Center this season.

But this isn’t about who the Lakers were. And it’s not about what they could’ve been. Even if they add help in the buyout market, the Lakers will have to figure it out with what they’re now — a team forced to struggle while it waits for its best players to get back.

UP NEXT

VS CLEVELAND

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Cavaliers (17-27) are coming off a 103-94 victory over the Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday. Cleveland is playing the second of seven on the road in an eight-game stretch.


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