LOS ANGELES — Having already made a big move 2½ weeks before the NBA trade deadline by acquiring Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards on Monday, Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka still stressed the urgency of revamping the list.
“[We] I felt like it was an opportunity for us to strike early and address a need in a market that’s been a little slow,” Pelinka said before the Lakers lost 133-115 to the LA Clippers on Tuesday, joining Hachimura for a pregame press conference . “And [it] does not mean our work is done: we will continue to monitor the situation with the remaining 29 teams. …
“Our job as a front office is to always look to improve our team both now and in the future, and we felt Rui was the perfect way to do that, and that’s why we struck early.”
Pelinka was asked if the Lakers’ pursuit of additional trades leading up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline would include parting with the franchise’s 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to complete the deal. Los Angeles was able to keep those picks in the Wizards trade, sending Kendrick Nunn and three future second-round picks to Washington.
“I think the calculation for the Lakers is whether they win a championship or not. There is no intermediate or incremental growth,” Pelinka said. “So as we analyze the opportunities, we have to do it through that lens. And I said that at the beginning of the season, if there’s an opportunity to go all the way and win a championship, we don’t have a resource that we’re going to hold back if we feel like it’s there.”
Part of that commitment to compete is motivated by LeBron James, now in his 20th season, who signed a two-year extension with the Lakers in the offseason — promising the sunset of his franchise heyday while still yearning to add to his four career titles.
“The completely unwise thing to do would be to shoot a bullet early and then not have it later when you have a better championship move you can make,” Pelinka continued. “It’s a really delicate calculation and something that the entire front office evaluates with all the moves. If we see a move that puts us as favorites to win another championship here, the 18th here, we’ll do it. And if that move doesn’t come, we’ll be smart and do it later.”
Pelinka also continued to distance himself from his previous stance on the front office’s decision-making process, making it clear that responsibility for every decision falls in his lap — even if he seeks input from team leaders in the form of James and Anthony Davies.
“I think LeBron said it very well in the press conference the other night when he said, ‘My job is to play basketball. It’s the front office’s job to do their job and build a roster. And the coach [Darvin] Hamm’s job is to train. I agree with that,” Pelinka said. “We all have to do our jobs and do them well and all be together. This is how we work and will continue to work.”
Hachimura, 24, had career averages of 13.0 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 5.1 rebounds in four seasons with Washington since being drafted No. 9 overall by Gonzaga in 2019.
A native of Toyama, Japan, Hachimura is the first Japanese-born player in Lakers history.
“I’m so excited for this opportunity,” Hachimura said Tuesday. “Obviously, the Lakers are one of the greatest organizations. I’m so happy to be a part of this family and I’m so happy to be back in LA
“It’s so funny that when I was in college, I used to come here for college games … and joke about how this was going to be my home. So it’s great that this is actually happening right now.”
Hachimura took a red-eye flight to Los Angeles on Monday and began the process of arriving at the Lakers’ practice facility at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, completing a physical and meeting with the team and trainers.
He could play as early as Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, sources told ESPN. He will wear number 28.
“I’ve always been impressed with him,” Hamm said. “Just a versatile, strong, athletic, skilled young player who I’m really excited about adding to our club.” I think he will bring a lot.”