LOS ANGELES — Having already made a major move 2½ weeks prior to the NBA’s 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 urgency in upgrading the roster.
“[We] felt like it was an opportunity for us to strike early and address a need in a market that has proven to be a little bit slow,” Pelinka said before the Lakers lost 133-115 to the LA Clippers on Tuesday, joining Hachimura for an introductory news conference. “And [it] doesn’t mean our work is finished: We’re going to continue to monitor the situation with the 29 other teams. …
“Our job as a front office is always to look to improve our team both now and in the future, and we felt like Rui was the perfect way to do that, and that’s why we struck 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 in order to complete a deal. L.A. was able to hold on to those picks in the Wizards trade, sending Kendrick Nunn and three future second-round picks to Washington.
“I think the calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There’s no in-between or incremental growth,” Pelinka said. “So as we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens. And, I said this at the beginning of the season, if there’s an opportunity to get all the way to the end and win a championship, there’s no resource we’ll hold on to if we feel like that’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 — pledging the twilight of his prime to the franchise while still yearning to add to 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. “That’s a really delicate calculus and something the entire front office, we evaluate with all the moves. If we see a move that puts us as a front-runner to get another championship here, the 18th one here, we’ll make it. And if that move doesn’t present itself, we’ll be smart and make it at a later time.”
Pelinka also continued to distance himself from his previous stance about the decision-making process in the front office, making it clear the responsibility for every decision falls in his lap — even if he seeks input from the team’s leaders in James and Anthony Davis.
“I think LeBron said it really well at 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 with the No. 9 pick out of Gonzaga in 2019.
A native of Toyama, Japan, Hachimura is the first Japanese-born player in Lakers history.
“I’m so excited for this opportunity,” Hachimura said Tuesday. “Of course, the Lakers is 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 L.A.
“It’s so funny that when I was in college, I came here for college games … and I was joking around how this was going to be my home. So it’s great it’s really happening right now.”
Hachimura took a red-eye flight to L.A. on Monday and began the onboarding process at the Lakers’ practice facility at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, completing a physical and meeting with team staff and coaches.
He could play as soon as Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, sources told ESPN. He will wear No. 28.
“I’ve always been impressed by him,” Ham said. “Just a multifaceted, strong, athletic, skilled young player that I’m really excited about having the opportunity to add him to our ballclub. I think he’s going to bring a lot.”