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LAS VEGAS — Saturday should have been a day of celebration for Los Angeles Lakers fans. The team finally executed its trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, pairing Anthony Davis with LeBron James. The Lakers can boast two of the best players in the league, and yet Kawhi Leonard turned his back on what could have been a superteam, choosing instead to join the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka then rushed through Plan B signings, including DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green, Quinn Cook and two returnees (JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). The team will also bring back Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso and add Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels. Depending on exactly how the deals are structured, Los Angeles may still have its $4.8 million room exception to add to the mix.
While the Lakers suddenly have considerable depth, they didn’t get Leonard, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Dating back to the team’s last playoff appearance in 2013, the year Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon, the Lakers have been trudging through a rebuild. Lottery after lottery, they’ve groomed players with the hope they’d either develop into stars or, more realistically, become the trade bait needed to build a superteam.
The goal was James, Davis and Leonard, but the Lakers fell short. They may still have enough to win, and a title would certainly make the sacrifices worthwhile. Still, they gave up a lot of talent through the years—players better than those scooped up on Plan B.
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Pelinka, with former executive Earvin “Magic” Johnson, traded D’Angelo Russell, the team’s No. 2 pick in 2015, to dump the contract of Timofey Mozgov. To be fair, Mozgov was inherited, but the Lakers gave up an eventual All-Star to open up cap room they hoped to use on Paul George last