* Recap: Blazers 95, Lakers 92
“Grousing” was what Lakers coach Luke Walton did after his team’s home loss to Portland Saturday, criticizing the game officials who had hit him with a technical foul in the third quarter. But “pouting” was an even bigger emotional topic, using Walton’s word for what seemed a distracted or downcast Lakers bunch.
It was left to L.A. center Andrew Bogut, one of the grown-ups on a very young Lakers team, to explain the source of the alleged pouting: the organization’s very public plan to overhaul its payroll after this season to lure big-name free agents. That invariably means some currently employed Lakers will be losing their jobs – and that sort of worry can wear on a fellow. ESPN’s Ohm Youngmusik provided details:
"Pouting? Possibly. Guys are frustrated," Bogut said of the Lakers as Brandon Ingram sat out because of injuries to his quads. "There are some injuries right now, different rotations. Guys are frustrated, obviously. You would be lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team.
"Everyone knows what is going on with the salary-cap situation next season and all that. That is just distractions that we can't let affect us. That is part of the league, the business decisions that front offices and coaches make. So if that is distracting guys, that is going to be like that your whole career. That is just the nature of this league."
The Lakers are building around the two most recent No. 2 overall picks in the draft -- Ingram and Lonzo Ball -- and also have impressive rookie Kyle Kuzma. But to pursue potential free agents such as LeBron James and Paul George next summer, management will have to create cap space, and that could impact players such as Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, two vets who have been excellent for the Lakers this season off the bench.
On Friday night, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks had some "initial talks" involving Randle and center Nerlens Noel, but that those talks fell apart when Noel got injured. According to league sources, the Lakers have received interest in Randle and Clarkson this season.
Randle did not receive a contract extension offer from the Lakers, who prioritized payroll flexibility for the offseason. Clarkson, with $26 million left over the final two years of his contract, is a logical trade piece to dredge more cap space. And being viewed as ledger items, Bogut said, is one of the challenges of the continuous improvement, bottom-line focus of professional sports.
"We make light about it, we laugh about it, but you just can't let it affect you," Bogut said. "It is hard to tell young guys, 18, 19, 20 that come from a great college environment ... and then you come into a situation like this sometimes where, kind of, guys don't know if they are coming or going.”
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