Even though this year's trading deadline has come and gone, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking forward to free-agency season. That's because the team has been eliminated from playoff contention.
According to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, the Lakers were able to beat the Detroit Pistons 93-85 to improve to a 17-46 record. However, their playoff hopes were dashed after the New Orleans Pelicans took out the Brooklyn Nets.
"I don't think about that, to be honest with you," Coach Byron Scott said regarding his team's elimination. "I'm just thinking about the process of this team continuing to get better and just sticking with what we talked about on both ends of the floor."
Scott elaborated on how far the Lakers have come this season.
"From day one to now, we've gotten better on the defensive end," Scott said. "That's what I've been preaching all season long, so that makes me happy. We've got to continue to do that for the next 19 games."
Holmes reported that the Lakers will miss the postseason for only the seventh time in franchise seasons. In addition, it would only be the second time they've missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons, which last happened during 1974-75 and 1975-76.
As for Lakers trade rumors, Kobe Bryant, who is out for the rest of this season due to a sports-related injury, shared a few thoughts about possible trades with Mark Medina of Los Angeles Daily News. However, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak indicated that he would not burn the team's financial flexibility and youth for other NBA veterans just so Bryant can win one more NBA championship.
"It's a balance of both," Bryant said. "You always want to set the franchise up for the long term. Mitch and I are on the same page."
Bryant added that he supports Kupchak's strategy.
"You don't want to compromise the future of the franchise for one season. You try to balance that," Bryant said.
Medina elaborated on the trade strategy the Lakers will pursue during the season of free agency.
"The Lakers will have to send their first-round draft selection to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix unless the pick lands in the top five," Medina wrote. "The Lakers will have a mid first-round pick stemmed from the [Jeremy] Lin trade with Houston."
According to Medina, the Lakers hope to benefit from rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Although Randle was out for the season due to a right leg injury, Bryant had noticed significant improvement in Clarkson's performance.
"He's improved a lot since I last saw him," Bryant said of Clarkson. "He's playing with confidence. That comes with more experience. The more he plays, the more comfortable he gets and the more assertive he is."
Medina reported that the Lakers wanted to sign a marquee free agent to a maximum-level contract. These people included Memphis' Marc Gasol, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Dallas' Rajon Rondo, Miami's Goran Dragic and Cleveland's Kevin Love.
Bryant indicated to Medina that he will talk with the Lakers' front office on their strategy of attracting the mentioned free agents. In the meantime, the focus turned to his 20 years on the basketball court.
"It means a lot. That's an accomplishment in itself to play for 20 years for one team," Bryant said. "I'm very lucky it's with this franchise. I feel moved by it."