Lakers’ Next Step in Rebuild May Be Leading Them on Path to LaMarcus Aldridge

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — You lower your standards in so many ways when things get rough.

You don't even realize the slippage most of the time.

We've heard all about how the Los Angeles Lakers pride themselves on their rich history and their all-about-championships attitude. Now that they're regaining some footing—understandably excited over lucking into the No. 2 overall pick and landing the gem that is D'Angelo Russell—it is time to remind everyone that some standards always drop.

The Lakers' news conference Monday was all about that.

General manager Mitch Kupchak knew it, off-handedly mentioning at the beginning that they don't usually have formal introductory events for three rookies at a time but "clearly we believe that the three players will be on our team."

While Russell, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown were still at the dais and answering questions, Kupchak was already off to the side—talking on his cell phone, punching in keys for a text.

So much work lies ahead for Kupchak and the Lakers in July free agency. And make no mistake, it is and always was the important stuff.

This kids stuff is over. Which established star will take the Lakers' money is what really matters.

LaMarcus Aldridge is the most likely candidate, DeAndre Jordan is the most intriguing and Greg Monroe is the most comparable to what long-term life would've been like with Jahlil Okafor's post offense but dearth of explosiveness on defense.

It doesn't end with a short list this summer. The Lakers have around $23 million in salary-cap space this offseason, and they are determined to spend it on the longer-term contracts they've largely avoided in the past to carry hope over to future seasons.

The Lakers will come out of the free-agent period with two proven NBA players, regardless of whether one of their top targets chooses them. In tha...

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