LAS VEGAS – The work routine shifted in recent days for Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka.
After spending the past weekend watching the Lakers’ Summer League team while fielding phone calls about prospective free agents, the front office brass returned to Los Angeles for additional meetings.
The Lakers met with free-agent guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo on Tuesday, according to league sources familiar with the situation. The Lakers consider Caldwell-Pope “their main target,” though the team has also expressed “serious interest” in Rondo,” sources said.
The Lakers have not made any offers, but they are expected to follow up on those meetings soon. They have $17 million remaining to spend on a one-year deal as well as a room exception worth $4.3 million. The Lakers have held firm on their plan to only offer one-year deals so they can have enough purchasing power next summer to pursue possible marquee free agents, including Paul George, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
The Detroit Pistons made the 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope an unrestricted free agent after he averaged 13.8 points and 3.3 rebounds. The Bulls waived the 31-year-old Rondo this offseason for salary relief purposes. He has averaged 10.7 points and 8.5 assists while shooting 46.3 percent through 11 NBA seasons.
STICKING TO ROUTINE
Even if his workload no longer includes playing in any Summer League games, second-year forward Brandon Ingram has resumed what he calls “his normal routine.” Ingram also said he is cleared to play five-on-five scrimmages once he returns to the Lakers’ practice facility.
The Lakers are not overly concerned about a cramp Ingram suffered in the team’s Summer League opener. They just shut Ingram down for preservation purposes, but the 19-year-old acknowledged that incident illustrated his need to hydrate himself better.
“From a nutrition standpoint, I can be better at that,” Ingram said. “With the way my body would’ve run (with better nutrition), I wouldn’t have even thought about a cramp.”
Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball (sore right groin) and rookie forward Kyle Kuzma (cramps) participated in the Lakers’ voluntary workout on Tuesday after missing Monday’s game against Sacramento. Rookie guards Josh Hart (right ankle sprain) and PJ Dozier (left ankle sprain) received treatment.
All players will be reevaluated on Wednesday for their availability to play the remainder of Summer League.
Monday’s game was an encouraging sign to Southbay Lakers president Joey Buss. With Ingram and their three first-round picks from last month’s draft sitting out with assorted ailments, the Lakers secured a 95-92 win over Sacramento by relying on players eager to crack a roster spot. That development reinforced the importance the Lakers have placed on their Development League affiliate, which will share the new expanded practice facility that will open this summer.
“The number one goal for our minor league team is to win championships and develop players for the Lakers,” Buss said. “We’re going to do that and we’re going to focus on youth, guys that are athletic, guys that can run and guys that can shoot.”
The Lakers drafted center Thomas Bryant with the No. 42 pick, and he is one of the candidates the team could sign to a two-way contract. That mechanism allows NBA teams to split costs with their D-League affiliate, which helps build more of a vested interest in each player.
Buss stressed, however, that the Lakers selected all their players based on how they would fit on an NBA roster.
“For the two-way contracts, it’s our goal to evaluate all of the guys on the Summer League team and also through our training camp,” Buss said. “We’ll get the guys that are the best fit and the most talented players for that two-way (contract). We’re currently evaluating that process.”