Lakers GM Rob Pelinka at end of season media

Lakers 2020-21 Exit Interview Notes

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The mission for the 2020-21 Lakers was simple: championship or bust. And so, even if their first round exit on Thursday is quickly explainable, there’s clear disappointment around the team, which was expressed during Friday’s exit interviews.

L.A. held a 2-1 series lead and carried a lot of confidence into Game 4 of their Round 1 series against No. 2 seeded Phoenix, but a groin injury to Anthony Davis in the second quarter was a microcosm of their entire season. Ill-timed injuries made a major impact throughout, and were ultimately the reason L.A. had to struggle to get the No. 7 seed, and why they lost to an excellent Suns team.

Below is a summary of the most pertinent points made by Lakers players, plus Frank Vogel and Rob Pelinka, as they came to grips with one of the most unique and challenging seasons in NBA history, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • VP of Basketball Ops Rob Pelinka said he felt the roster was of championship-caliber, but was clearly impacted by injuries amongst other things: “Winning a title has tot be thte goal every year … the only way tto get there has to be hard work.” He said he’ll dive back into the process immediately, looking to shape the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, whose health throughout the offseason is a top organizational priority.
  • Pelinka added: “We have an insatiable desire to bring banner No. 18 here.
  • Pelinka explained that “Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, players you draft or bring into your 2-way system and develop, there’s pride there” as they look to keep them as a part of the core moving forward.
  • Frank Vogel agreed with Pelinka about the championship potential of the roster, and shared the disappointment that they weren’t really able to see the full capability. He said they’d like the chance to run it back, but also knows there are inevitably adjustments to the roster.
  • Vogel summarized Round 1 as such: "The Anthony Davis injury changed the series,” he said. “Game 4, we had supreme confidence that we had taken control of the series … then Anthony goes down, and I think there was a bigger deflating effect” than in Game 6, where they knew AD would be limited.”
  • LeBron on his confidence in the front office over the offseason: Rob has done such a great job of constructing this team that he’ll continue to do that … I will have some input. AD will have some input. I trust Rob … No. 1 is getting AD healthy. Get my ankle back right, and I already know I’ll be 100% when the season starts in October. That puts us in the best possible chance to be successful. But Rob will do due diligence.”
  • Anthony Davis referenced the shortened offseason and how it messed up the routine of recovering from the title run especially: “It was different … all around the league, guy’s bodies didn’t handle that very well … but now we have the opportunity to take advantage of this longer offseason … to prepare for next season … I think health played a big part in why we’re in the position we’re in … all our guys … we just wasn’t healthy. We were very healthy last year. Not this year.”
  • Here’s Andre Drummond talking about playing with AD, which can be thought of as an extension to his fitting in generally: “There were bright spots throughout the year where we did play together and great things happened, but you can’t expect two guys that play in the paint to get adjusted in six weeks. It’s something that’s going to take some time, we’ve got to have a training camp together, preseason and even the regular season to work on things like that to build that kind of chemistry. But I think he and I did a great job of adjusting well to each other with the time that we had.”
  • Alex Caruso on the impact of the shortened offseason coming off the title, which had him banged up all season, including Game 6 against PHX when he couldn’t play in the 2nd half: “It was a bit of a struggle … KCP playing on one leg. AD couldn’t go. That was just kind of the storyline of the year, taking away from the potential that this team had.”
  • Caruso on LeBron and AD’s presence in L.A. influencing his looming decision as a free agent: “Big … any time you’re playing with those two, you have a realistic chance to win a championship. It’s a realistic, attainable goal with those two guys on your team. That’s always in the back of your mind.”
  • Dennis Schroder: “I’m going to work my ass off to come back here and give everything because we owe the fans more. I’m going to work my ass off this summer, come back and be me … I want to be here and win a championship."
  • Kyle Kuzma on the impact of the almost combined seasons on his body, and how he tried to evolve his game: “I think it was a big impact for sure. Going through the year having soft tissue injuries, knicks and bruises, not really having an offseason. You gotta think after winning the championship most of us took time off because that was a long haul, a grueling three months. I think a longer offseason will do us all well.”
  • Here’s Wesley Matthews on the difficulty of establishing a rhythm with the roster this season: "A lot of that is repetitions that we couldn’t have. Live practice situations that we couldn’t do. Condensed season, with travel, which doesn’t leave you much time to practice, go hard and compete in practice, and play so that you can see those live looks because you have to preserve your legs (for games). So with lineups changes, superstars are in and out of the lineups, games were almost practices for us. We played I don’t know how many rotations that were on the court for the first time. I think those guys felt more comfortable with me understanding situations, moments, spots … you play against these guys and you feel they play one way, but you play with them, and you feel like they can play (more than) one way."

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