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Oram: Lakers double down on belief they can lure free agents by clearing cap space

By in Press Enterprise on February 9, 2018

By Bill Oram

LOS ANGELES — Officially, the Lakers on Thursday traded two key bench players for a two-time former All-Star, a sharp-shooting veteran forward and a first-round draft pick.

What the Lakers gained in the hours before Thursday’s trade deadline was far more valuable than Isaiah Thomas, more desperately needed than Channing Frye’s range, more prized than a draft pick.

It was Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. for two superstars to be named later.

“This,” Magic Johnson said, “is what I came here to do.”

You don’t build a runway unless you believe planes will land on it, you don’t open a restaurant unless you think people will dine there and you certainly don’t clear $70 million in salary cap space unless you think NBA stars will take your money.

The Lakers have the space, they just need to find the superstars willing to occupy it.

Thomas and Frye are both on deals that will expire at season’s end, which, depending on what the Lakers decide to do with an energized Julius Randle, leaves enough space for two maximum-contract free agents, either this summer or next.

“This was an essential step for us to get a playoff team and a championship-caliber team back to the Lakers,” General Manager Rob Pelinka said, “which is the sole goal that Earvin and I have working together.”

As painful as it was for the Lakers to say goodbye to Nance and Clarkson, two players they identified as talents and plucked out of the draft with late picks, the Lakers are only partially basing their future on homegrown talent.

The organization is committed to rebuilding quickly, and the fastest way to do that is by bringing in ready-made stars elsewhere. In another time, another place, that might have included Thomas, who finished fifth in MVP voting last year and ascended to face-of-the-franchise status in Boston […]    

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