New-look Lakers have hope moving forward, and questions

Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell elevates for a layup between two Trail Blazers defenders on Monday night in Portland.
(Steve Dykes / Associated Press)

Hey, everyone, it’s Lakers beat writer Dan Woike, and welcome to this post-trade deadline, pre-All-Star break newsletter.

Today we’ll address the concept of “vibes” and why the good feelings from the past weekend could end up being just temporary.


New blood

The NBA trade deadline exists for three kinds of teams — the ones gearing up for a championship push, the ones turning their attention to the draft and the future, and the ones like the Lakers, who just need to become something new.

By the time last Tuesday’s game ended — LeBron James rightfully happy with an all-time achievement in the NBA’s scoring record and the rest of the locker room rightfully miserable after another loss — it was clear that the roster needed to be cleansed.

Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook, for very different reasons, were the logical choices.

Off the court, Beverley’s volatility and emotionality were a strain, the juice provided on the court not always worth the squeeze off of it. In the final year of his contract and with a salary that could bring back talent in return, it was a lock the Lakers would look to ship him out.

And after months and months of not-so-secretly trying to trade Westbrook, a change needed to be made — the uncomfortability of it all coming to a head with the Lakers’ chase of Kyrie Irving.

So the roster turned over — D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba and Davon Reed in; and Beverley, Westbrook, Thomas Bryant, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Jones out. And add Rui Hachimura to the new faces list because of his pre-deadline acquisition.


All of it has given the Lakers a little bit of optimism and hope as they head into the most important stretch of the season, time running out on their playoff push.

People within the organization are optimistic for two reasons — because of the clear on-court fits and because of the necessary off-court reset.

League insiders and people within the organization have given good reviews for the moves made by general manager Rob Pelinka, who not only improved the roster in the short term, but did so without sacrificing the team’s future flexibility because of the favorable contracts he acquired (in particular the team options on nonguaranteed deals for Beasley and Bamba).

The only gripe is that the changes might have come too late — but reasonably speaking, the pressures of the trade deadline and the lighter remaining schedule made it easier to trade Westbrook without sacrificing a second first-round draft pick.

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Players on the team are optimistic about the moves, optimistic about the potential for actual continuity through the offseason, which is something the Lakers haven’t had in a meaningful way since LeBron James and Anthony Davis teamed up.

There is, though, a ticking clock that threatens these good feelings.

Take the loss to Portland on Monday, a result, at least in part, that can be written off to an opponent making a lot of shots — poor shooters outperforming their percentages and a star, Damian Lillard, going nuclear. While the Lakers’ defense certainly played a role, nights like that happen in the NBA.

Except with the Lakers in 13th place, they can’t anymore — each loss meaning the Lakers have to steal another win somewhere else in addition to the necessary five- or six-game winning streak they absolutely need to create.

The pressures of an increasingly difficult playoff push are the biggest threat to any of the upgraded vibes in the locker room, a reminder that good feelings and comfortability only matter if the results are there to match.

Song of the week

O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps

Things are gonna get easier. Things’ll get brighter. Or not. Either way, hard to feel defeated while you listen to this Chicago band’s biggest hit.


In case you missed it

Trade-deadline trio shows its chemistry: Takeaways from Lakers’ win over Warriors

LeBron-less Lakers show off their new additions, newfound grit in win over Warriors

D’Angelo Russell is ready for his second chance with Lakers

Suns lead way as teams retool for stretch run in the NBA’s wild, wild West

Short-handed Lakers give Bucks a fight but fall short

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seeks to develop bond with Lakers’ LeBron James


Plaschke: Lakers’ trades will mean nothing if LeBron James is watching from the bench

Lakers trade Patrick Beverley to Magic for Mo Bamba, acquire Davon Reed

Lakers trade Russell Westbrook, acquire D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt

Until next time...

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