Is Kyrie Irving part of the Lakers’ plans? Pelinka says there is work to be done

Rob Pelinka couldn’t directly answer any of the rumors about his team during a Friday night TV appearance in Las Vegas.

However, he made it clear that Lakers not done.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said in the fourth quarter. NBA Summer League the game.

What the Lakers did and what they still have to do was a frequent topic of conversation during the opening weekend of the Summer League.

It started on a Friday night when LeBron James as well as Russell Westbrook attended the Lakers’ opening game in Las Vegas, where the two stars never recognized each other. The awkwardness became the history of the game, and people were still talking about it Sunday when the Lakers played again.

The question besides failures of last seasonwere James’s not-so-secret desire to get Kyrie Irving to the Lakers replace Westbrook.

Scouts and opposing executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, are divided over whether the Lakers will be able to secure a deal for Irving, with James’s approaching contract renewal deadline of early August seen as a key date.

One league insider pointed to the Lakers’ current salary cap table: Anthony Davis is the only player signed after the end of this season, which is a significant investment, although Talen Horton-Tucker has an $11 million option to train next offseason. The lack of long-term money on the books speaks to the team’s desire to remain flexible as James and Davis age.

It could mean giving up on their current star fortune – three players at Westbrook, James and Davis are eating up all the space above the team’s salary cap. Or he could leave the door open for a simple re-casting, perhaps with Irving, James and Davis.

Most league insiders believed that any potential trade for Irving to Los Angeles would be put on hold until the Nets traded Kevin Durant. And with the asking price for the 33-year-old, 12-time All-Star being incredibly high, it remains to be seen if and when a Durant deal will be struck.

If the Lakers do move on to other targets — Buddy Heald and Eric Gordon are the most frequently mentioned — that could also require the team to send more first-round draft picks.

The consensus among scouts and league leaders is that the Lakers have thrived under free agency so far, given their limitations.

“I really like what they’ve done compared to last year,” said one Eastern Conference team principal.

The most controversial decision was the team’s decision to use their biggest freelancing spending, mid-level taxpayer exclusion, on guard Lonnie Walker IV.

Critics pointed to his inconsistency over his three-point line when he played for San Antonio.

“How come teams haven’t figured out yet to surround LeBron with shooters?” asked one of the NBA insiders.

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Proponents of the decision to sign Walker consider last season’s 31.4% hit rate an anomaly. Scouts were enthusiastic about his athleticism and character, although there were questions about his decision making on both sides of the ball.

A former NBA head coach said he thinks Walker could be an explosive off-the-bench scorer for the Lakers, replacing some of the results the team got from Malik Monk last year.

Another league insider pointed to the overall lack of shooting in this class of free agents in the team’s price range. Defenseman Donte Di Vincenzo, who has only a slightly better career 3-point percentage than Walker, was considered but was ultimately ruled out due to injury concerns. He signed with the Golden State Warriors for $4.5 million.

The Lakers received high marks in the league for convincing Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant to sign minimum contracts to play center. An insider who worked with Jones last season at Sacramento said he sees him as a progressive player despite being a six-season veteran. Bryant’s offensive value, along with a healthy Davis, should give the Lakers a small lead with a big lead after a serious knee injury two seasons ago.

Likewise, Juan Toscano-Anderson’s toughness and attitude has huge support in league circles, although some worry about a decline in athleticism. However, as a ready defender, they took the signing positively.

Troy Brown Jr. received some mixed reviews from scouts and executives, concerns were about his readiness for a big role, especially on a team with high expectations. Brown shot about 38% from 3-pointers after Christmas last season and his fans think he’s the kind of player who can help the team win with his versatility.

“I love Troy a little,” said one scout. “He knows how to play. A jack of all trades, but he doesn’t know how to do anything. Worried about his shooting but pretty good [minimum-contract] player. Size, length, plays on both ends. I like this move.”

As for Lakers rookies, point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. impressed scouts with his defensive tenacity, with one scout comparing him to New Orleans quarterback José Alvarado. Cole Swider’s shot was as good as advertised, but he has a lot of work to do defensively, and second-round pick Max Christie is seen as a long-term project that needs to find his shot despite his defensive readiness and rebounding. abilities looked good in the Summer League.

“Just wait until he comes out against the NBA authorities,” one scout said skeptically.

The Lakers are currently armed with one empty spot on the roster, although they could create a second by dropping forward Venien Gabriel. They can only use their veteran’s minimum exemptions to sign players.

Deals are still possible – Horton-Tucker’s contract makes him a likely participant in any significant deal that does not include Westbrook. And if Westbrook returns — still a big if — one source believes the Lakers’ success will still depend on him.

“I still think it all comes down to Russ,” the insider said. “ED and LeBron can’t carry them all the way. Russ needs to provide entry-level production and they need guys who are going to outbid their contracts. I think Lonnie, Troy and Thomas Bryant have a chance to do that and be good role players for them.”