Not a few quarters found themselves raising their eyebrows in reaction to news that Dennis Schroder has inked a one-year deal with the Lakers. To recall, the guard was in purple and gold throughout the 2020-21 season, but evidently did not like the experience enough to reject a four-year pact worth a whopping $80 million. Considering his up-and-down campaign, the offer was tantamount to a validation of his value to the front office. Still, he spurned the contract extension in favor of free agency. The decision cost him dearly; after all was said and done, $5.9 million from the Celtics was all the market could bear. And even then, he couldn’t stick the landing; he was traded midstream to the Rockets, who then let him go.
Significantly, Shroder had been sending signals — both privately and publicly — regarding his return to the Lakers, and not because of a lack of suitors. If the grapevine is to be believed, he also had the Raptors and the Suns crowding his doorstep. No doubt, his relationship with head coach Darvin Ham dating back to his Hawks days was a factor. Perhaps he’s also bent on making amends with fans who often took him to task for his apparent lack of competitiveness; his latest Instagram post spoke of him “coming back to the biggest organization to make sh*t right!”
By all accounts, the Lakers are bent on showing all and sundry that their roster construction puts them closer to the hardware. Outwardly, Ham has been hitting all the right notes, insisting that there’s method to the madness. Never mind that there was already a logjam in the backcourt even before Schroder arrived as the prodigal son; Russell Westbrook, Lonnie Walker IV, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves, and new acquisition Patrick Beverley already had spots. Which is why, all pronouncements to the contrary, conventional wisdom has the franchise making at least one big move to address the unevenness of the lineup.
To be sure, Westbrook has long acknowledged the writing on the wall. After all, he did let go of longtime agent Thad Foucher ostensibly to secure a new home for himself. And he’s not stupid; he knows what signing noted rival Beverley and fellow point guard Schroder mean — less exposure, at the very least. Meanwhile, the Lakers don’t look that much better from the outside looking in. Not a single one of their actions so far has been a game changer. And with due respect to general manager Rob Pelinka, the impression they’re engendering is that of a headless chicken, trying to do something — anything — in the hope that they’ll eventually luck out.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.