LOS ANGELES — Having already made a big move 2½ weeks before the NBA trade deadline by acquiring Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards Monday, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka still emphasized the urgency to close the upgrade selection.
“[We] felt like it was an opportunity for us to strike early and fill a need in a market that has proven a bit sluggish,” Pelinka said before the Lakers lost 133-115 to the LA Clippers on Tuesday, joining Hachimura for an introductory match. press conference. “And [it] doesn’t mean our work is done. We continue to monitor the situation with the 29 other teams.
“…Our job as the front office is always 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 struck early.”
Pelinka was asked if the Lakers’ pursuit of deals leading up to the February 9 trade deadline means they will have to bid farewell to the franchise’s first-round picks for 2027 and 2029 to close a deal. Los Angeles was able to hold onto those picks in the Wizards trade, sending Kendrick Nunn and three future picks to Washington in the second round.
“I think the tradeoff for the Lakers is whether 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’s a chance to go all the way to the end and win a championship, there’s no means that we have.” I’ll hold if we feel like there is.
Part of that commitment to compete has been motivated by LeBron James, now in his 20th season, signing a two-year extension with the Lakers in the off-season — promising the twilight of his prime to the franchise while still yearning to add to his four career titles.
“It would be completely unwise to fire a bullet early and not have it later when you have a better championship move to make,” said Pelinka. “That’s a very delicate calculation and something that the entire front office evaluates with all moves. If we see a move that puts us in front to get another championship here, the 18th here, we’ll make it. And if that move happens doesn’t show up, we’ll be smart and do it at a later date.”
Pelinka also continued to distance himself from his previous stance on the front office decision-making process, making it clear that the responsibility for every decision rests in his lap — even as he seeks input from team leaders in James and Anthony Davis.
“I think LeBron said it really well at the press conference last night when he said, ‘It’s my job to play basketball. It’s the front office’s job to do their job and build a roster. And coach [Darvin] It’s Ham’s job to coach.’ I agree,” said Pelinka. “We all have to do our jobs and do a great job and all be together. This is how we work and we will continue to work.”
When James was asked his thoughts on Pelinka’s preference for holding assets until an irresistible trading scenario emerges, he repeated the roles outlined by the Lakers manager.
“Rob is going to do his job, that’s his job,” James said after the Lakers’ loss. “My job is to be on the ground and make sure my guys are locked up and ready to go.”
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 in 2019 with the No. 9 Gonzaga.
Born in Toyama, Japan, Hachimura is the first Japanese-born player in Lakers history.
“I am so excited for this opportunity,” Hachimura said on Tuesday. “Of course the Lakers is one of the biggest 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 used to come here for college games… and I joked that this was going to be my home. So it’s great that it’s actually happening now.”
Hachimura took a red-eye flight to Los Angeles on Monday and began the onboarding process at 6 a.m. Tuesday at the Lakers’ practice facility, completing a physical interview and a meeting with team staff and coaches.
According to Ham, he will be available to play against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. He will wear No. 28.
“I’ve always been impressed with him,” said Ham. “Just a versatile, strong, athletic, capable young player who I’m really excited to add to our baseball club. I think he’s going to bring a lot.”