A year after assuming front office roles, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka fulfilled their promise to bring a superstar to Los Angeles. In the recent free agency, the Lakers succeeded in signing LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million contract. Unfortunately, the Lakers failed to acquire a second superstar to pair with James.
Instead, the Lakers signed four veterans — JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley — whose fit with James remains a huge question mark. The controversial free agency signings drew mixed reactions from people around the league, but Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka were confident that they made the right decision. In an interview with Jerry Bembry of The Undefeated, Kobe Bryant defended the Lakers’ offseason moves and said that the purple and gold will surprise a lot of people in the 2018-19 NBA season.
“The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people. Rob [Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager], has smartly built a team of physical players. Big, versatile, fast, physical players. He understands that if you want to challenge Golden State, you can’t challenge them with shooting. That’s what they do. You’ve got to beat them somewhere else. You have to beat them with size. Chippiness. Feistiness. Strength and speed. And he has a team that has that. He has a mixture of vets that are still in their primes and young kids that are hungry and open-minded and willing to learn.”
When Kobe Bryant said that the Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people, he meant that the purple and gold are a definite playoff team. Bryant strongly believes LeBron James, together with the veterans and young players, can end the Lakers’ five-year playoff drought this season. So far, James and the Lakers still have a long way to go to be considered as a legitimate title contender in the league.
Their recent loss to the Portland Trail Blazers showed that they need lots of improvement in their individual performances and team chemistry. However, despite their struggle shooting the ball from beyond the arc and stopping the explosive backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Lakers established a promising performance with their pace, outscoring the Trail Blazers 34-12 in fast-break points. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart also proved that they are ready to help the Lakers contend for the NBA title.
If the Lakers continue to improve on both ends of the floor and build good chemistry, they may really end up surprising a lot of people, as Kobe Bryant predicted. In their second game of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Lakers are set to face the Houston Rocket on Saturday night at Staples Center.