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 upgrading the roster.
“(We) felt it was an opportunity for us to strike early and address a need in a market that’s proven to be a little bit slow,” Pelinka said before the Lakers lost 133-115 to the LA Clippers on Tuesday, where they joined Hachimura for an introductory news conference. “And (it) doesn’t mean our work is done: we will continue to monitor the situation with the other 29 teams…
“Our job as a front office is always to look to improve our team both now and in the future, and we felt Rui was the perfect way to do that, which is why we jumped in early.”
Pelinka was asked if the Lakers’ pursuit of additional deals leading up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline will include parting with the franchise’s 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to complete a deal. LA was able to hang on to those picks in the Wizards trade, sending Kendrick Nunn and three future second-round picks to Washington.
“I think the bottom line for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There’s no intermediate or incremental growth,” Pelinka said. “So when we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens. And I said this at the beginning of the season, if there is an opportunity to get all the way to the end and win a championship, there is no resource we” We hold on to if we feel it’s there.”
Part of that commitment to compete is motivated by LeBron James, now in his 20th season, who inked a two-year extension with the Lakers in the offseason — promising the twilight of his prime to the franchise while still yearning to add 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 bill and something the whole front office is evaluating with every move. If we see a move that puts us as the front-runner to get another championship here, the 18th here, then we’ll make it. And if that move doesn’t work itself out, we’ll be smart and do it at a later time.”
Pelinka also continued to distance himself from his previous stance on the decision-making process in the front office, making it clear that responsibility for every decision falls in his lap — even as he seeks input from the team’s leaders in James and Anthony Davis.
“I think LeBron said it really well in the press conference the other night when he said, ‘My job is to play basketball. The front office’s job is to do their job and build a roster. And coach (Darvin) Ham’s job is to coach.’ I agree with that,” Pelinka said. “We all have to do our jobs and do them with excellence and all be together. That’s how we operate and will continue to operate.”
Hachimura, 24, had career averages of 13.0 points on 47.9% shooting and 5.1 rebounds in four seasons with Washington since being drafted No. 9 out of Gonzaga in 2019.
A native of Toyama, Japan, Hachimura is the first Japanese-born player in Lakers history.
“I’m so excited about 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 came here to play college … and I joked about how this was going to be my home. So it’s great that it’s really happening right now.”
Hachimura took a red-eye flight to LA on Monday and began the onboarding process at the Lakers’ practice facility at 6 a.m. Tuesday, completing a physical and meeting with team personnel and trainers.
He will be available to play Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, according to Ham. He will wear No. 28.
“I’ve always been impressed with him,” Ham said. “Just a multi-faceted, strong, athletic, skilled young player that I’m really excited to have the opportunity to add him to our ballclub. I think he’s going to bring a lot.”