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#pounditTuesday, May 17, 2022

Did Lakers stars pressure Rob Pelinka into making major roster move?

Rob Pelinka

Much has been made of the roster that Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka put together this season. But it turns out that Pelinka might have actually done it differently if it had been solely up to him.

In a post to his Substack this week, veteran NBA writer Marc Stein made an interesting revelation about the Lakers’ acquisition of former MVP Russell Westbrook this past summer. Stein said that Pelinka had planned to trade for Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield but that stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis encouraged the Lakers front office to go all-in for Westbrook.

We knew that the Lakers were linked to Hield immediately before trading for Westbrook. Just minutes after they were reported to be nearing a trade for Hield, it was then reported that the Lakers were instead trading largely the same assets (Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and a first-round pick) to Washington for Westbrook.

The ex-MVP Westbrook has struggled in Los Angeles this year. Combined with his usual inefficiency and turnovers, Westbrook is averaging his fewest points per game since the 2009-10 season. The Lakers are also just .500 on the season overall. That begs the question of if Hield, a 40 percent three-point shooter on a smaller contract who likely would have fit better with James and Davis, was the player the Lakers should have gotten instead.

With the Feb. 10 trade deadline approaching, many are now wondering if the Lakers will consider trading Westbrook. Some speculative scenarios have even emerged. But Stein adds that there are concerns with optics for the Lakers, who do not want to pay a premium to dump Westbrook after giving up so much to acquire him. Thus, the Lakers are unwilling to include their 2027 first-round pick in any such trade of Westbrook, Stein notes.

As for Pelinka, he recently explained why Westbrook was chosen over Hield. But what Pelinka obviously won’t admit is if he got pressured into choosing Westbrook over Hield by the Lakers’ star players. Based on this latest report, it sounds very possible that was the case.

Photo: Sep 27, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka answers a question during the Lakers media day at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, CA. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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