The Los Angeles Lakers are downright giddy thanks to some trade deadline wheeling and dealing that has the franchise primed to reinvent itself in the years to come.
But before any of the freshly fashioned cap room can get gobbled up by a choice free agent or two, the Lakers still have this season at hand. One they hope ends in a postseason run that would go a long way toward developing a young and talented core.
“We’re building something really good here,” Julius Randle said.
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The Lakers (23-31) have won four in a row, which at least has positioned Los Angeles closer to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference than last place. Up next is that last-place team, with the Lakers at the Dallas Mavericks (17-38) on Saturday night.
Isaiah Thomas is slated to make his Lakers debut against the Mavs, along with his former Cleveland teammate Channing Frye. Thomas is expected to start with Lonzo Ball (sprained MCL) out.
Los Angeles coach Luke Walton doesn’t expect the newcomers to disrupt the rotation or team’s momentum. The Lakers have won 12 of 16 overall.
“We play a certain way and hold each other accountable,” Walton said. “I can’t ask the players to do it if I am not going to take guys (out) when they are not playing that way. But I don’t see the new guys having a problem with that.
“We play a fun style of basketball. We compete, run and play fast. For those two, the way they shoot the ball, if you are open, I am going to tell them to shoot it every time, so I don’t envision them having a problem with the way we play.”
Dallas is also playing their first home game since dealing longtime fan and franchise favorite Devin Harris to Denver in a three-team trade at the deadline. The deal, which netted forward Doug McDermott from New York and a second-round pick in the upcoming draft, did take an emotional toll on the Mavs.
“As far as Devin leaving us, he’s been a loyal foot soldier for the Mavericks organization going back over a decade,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s been one of my favorite players to work with in all my time in this league. We wish him the very best. Denver has got a guy with a lot of experience and a lot of skill, who can really be a difference-maker for their situation, so they’re very fortune. We wish him nothing but the best.”
McDermott, a 3-point shooting wing, is expected to be in uniform against the Lakers. The former first-round pick is a restricted free agent this summer, and the Mavs will use the rest of the season as an audition for the future.
“We like McDermott very much,” Carlisle said. “He’s a terrific shooter, great player without the ball, and we definitely view him as a winning player and our kind of guy. We got a second-round pick in the deal somewhere in the middle of the second. Most people forecast it to be a deep draft.”