In an interview published last week on the Lakers official website, GM Rob Pelinka talks about how the Lakers and Nets put together the trade that remade both team’s rosters —and futures— just before the NBA Draft last June.
In the re-telling, Pelinka credits his ability to construct a personal relationship with Sean Marks as the two worked through the details of the deal. In the end, the Nets sent Brook Lopez and the 27th pick (which the Lakers used to take Kyle Kuzma) to the Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.
Here’s the Laker website take, written by Kevin Ding...
Pelinka actually met with Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks in person three times over the course of the off-season deal-building process.
”I enjoy that human interaction,” Pelinka said. “I think that was a key component for this to come together.
”You have to have a consistent thread in your relationship building in life. Of course I dealt with Sean when I was a player representative and he was in the front office both in San Antonio and Brooklyn. I had a really good rapport with him. Both he and I value human interactions. It can’t just be a text; it can’t just be a phone call.”
Pelinka’s interviews add to the background of the trade, the Nets biggest trade since they acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in June 2013.
According to published reports and NetsDaily sourcing, the Nets initial offer to the Lakers, early in June, was Brook Lopez and their two first round picks, the 22nd and 27th, for Mozgov’s albatross of a contract — three years and $48 million— and the Lakers pick, the second overall. That, obviously, wasn’t going anywhere and the Lakers quickly rejected it. But it became the basis for further negotiations.
The second offer, which was discussed the weekend before the June 22 Draft, was a bit more realistic ... and close to the final shape of the deal. In that offer, the Nets were willing to give up Lopez and take on Mozgov’s contract for Russell, who they knew Lakers weren’t happy with. Moreover, everyone knew L.A. was going to take Lonzo Ball at No. 2. In that iteration, the Nets would keep the 27th pick. The Lakers said no again. (Jonathan Givony of ESPN reported this week that the Nets were originally interested in using that pick on Hamidou Diallo, the Kentucky shooting guard from Queens, but he dropped out on May 25.)
On Monday, June 19, Woj suggested in a podcast that the Nets might benefit from a “salary dump” in which they got Russell and the Lakers got rid of Mozgov’s contract. L.A. needed to lose it and/or Luol Deng’s bigger deal if they were have enough cap space in 2018 to sign Paul George and/or LeBron James.
Here’s Woj’s comments broadcast that afternoon...
“So, hypothetically, Brooklyn says, ‘we’ll take on (Timofey) Mozgov or we’ll take on (Luol) Deng but you’re sending us D’Angelo Russell or you’re sending us your first round pick.’
“There is no other way the Lakers are getting Deng or Mozgov off the cap,”
By early the next morning, June 20, Woj tweeted that as of then, there was no deal, no salary dump on the horizon ... for anyone.
For now, LA resisting salary dumps on Mozgov or Deng needed to clear future space. Teams trying to snag pick/young player to absorb deals.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2017
Indeed, that was the case. The Nets did think the deal was, if not dead, on life support. Both Marks and Dmitry Razumov, the Nets chairman, wanted Russell ... badly. One Nets official described the addition of DLo as potentially “transformative.”
So, in the early afternoon, talks renewed for the first time since the weekend and by around 5 p.m., there was a deal. Woj broke the news at 5:09 p.m.
Lakers are trading Tim Mozgov and D'Angelo Russell to Nets for Brook Lopez and 27th pick Thursday, sources say.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2017
The final piece to the puzzle was the 27th pick. That gave the Lakers flexibility. They got Kyle Kuzma, they liked and permitted them to flip the next pick, which they already controlled, for Nos. 30 (Josh Hart) and 42 (Thomas Bryant) picks.
It was all made official on Thursday night, during the second round of the NBA Draft.
In the Lakers.com interview, Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s former agent, said he and Magic Johnson liked the by-product of sending Russell, their former No. 2 pick, to Brooklyn.
For taking on Mozgov’s contract, Marks got the considerable upside of Russell’s potential, and Pelinka saw it as a nice byproduct that the Lakers were setting Russell up in a good situation.
”The overwhelming driving force behind any trade is 100 percent what’s best for the Lakers,” Pelinka said. “But we’re all human. There is a human element through every decision that’s made in life.
“Magic and I, with this one, were particularly happy D’Angelo was getting traded to a great franchise in the Brooklyn Nets in a big market with a great opportunity for him to lead the team.
”It is an example of a trade that really, really was a win-win. At least the human side of it, you feel good about it. That’s not always the case.”
It sure didn’t look like that the day after the Draft when Magic trashed DLo in introducing Ball to the media, citing his potential for leadership over Russell’s.
And so, on Friday night, in Brooklyn, the trade plays out again. Pelinka has his cap space and Lopez is unhappy with his minutes in L.A. Kuzma is playing well for the Lakers. Russell is finally starting to lose the rust he accumulated while missing two months of action. Mozgov has played one game —eight minutes— in the last month, but unlike Joakim Noah, his counterpart on the Knicks, he hasn’t voiced any complaints and is seen happily cheering on his teammates.
Was it “transformative,” as the Nets official suggested, or “win-win,” as Pelinka called it? Too early to tell.