LA Lakers Front Office Whiffs at NBA Trade Deadline, but Bigger Tests Await

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The future course of the Los Angeles Lakers wasn’t shaped at the NBA trade deadline Thursday.

It won’t be dictated by May 20, the next landmark date as far as L.A. is concerned: the draft lottery. The actual June 26 draft, as uncommonly important as this one could be for the Lakers, isn’t make-or-break, either.

There are no two ways about it: Which free agents the team selects in the next three summers, and which free agents select L.A., will set the entire table.

Everything else is a newer salt shaker here, a cleaner napkin there, maybe a place for Jim Buss to hang his baseball cap in the corner.

The trade deadline was a failure of very small proportions for the Lakers. They were unable to move closer to securing some of those small, better pieces via future draft picks in exchange for outgoing veterans Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman.

General manager Mitch Kupchak could not sell his counterparts, few of whom were buyers, on deals that would give Los Angeles better than just financial savings the rest of this season. Kupchak said the available offers consisted of “no basketball components...The expression would be 'a salary dump.'"

Kupchak flatly said: “The organization is not motivated by saving ‘X’ amount of dollars.” There has been a lot of misplaced concern about the Lakers needing to get out of the luxury tax this season to avoid future repeat tax penalties, but their payroll structure makes it almost impossible for them to be in the tax again the next few seasons. So that isn’t a problem.

What really matters is what Kupchak said when I asked him about deciding whether to set that table with the salary-cap space this offseason versus next offseason.

“The one thing you don’t want to do is make a bad decision with your money,” Kupchak said. &ldqu...

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