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Report: NBA general manager concerned Dante Exum will force his way to Lakers

Feb 27, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT

NBL Rd 18 - Melbourne v Adelaide Getty Images

A draft prospect who grew up overseas really wanted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. But a team drafting before the Lakers also wanted the player. So, the player threated to sign with a foreign team if he couldn’t go to the Lakers.

Safe to say, the Nets wish they had called Kobe Bryant’s bluff/threat (or if you prefer, threat/bluff) and drafted him before the Charlotte Hornets did on behalf of Los Angeles in 1996.

Eighteen years, could the scenario repeat itself?

Dante Exum is working out in Los Angeles preparing for the draft, and he’s said the Lakers would be his ideal fit. Via Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report:

“Definitely L.A. is one option,” he said. “I’ve been to L.A. many times and I love the city, and it is a great city. If I get the opportunity to go to L.A. and play for the Lakers, I know I’ll have love for the city. And their fans are loyal and they have the rivalry with the Clippers. But just to be in an environment where you have a great player like Kobe, where you have a mentor in a way as a rookie, I think that would be the best option.”

Maybe that’s an idle assessment, but maybe it’s the first step of a a bluff/threat (or if you prefer, threat/bluff). After all Exum’s agent is Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe (though Arn Tellem represented Kobe as a draft prospect in 1996).

At least one general manager is concerned. Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

But would Exum go so far as to try to angle his way onto the Lakers, who currently have the fifth-worst record in the NBA? That’s the concern among some front-office executives around the league.

“When you hear some of what he says, it does make you wonder how the process is going to go as far as workouts and that sort of thing,” one general manager told Sporting News. “We have seen this story before, of course. I am not sure a player can have that kind of control, though.”

I like Exum as a draft prospect, and I like his fit with the Lakers. (As long as we’re speculating, especially with Kevin Love also joining the tam.)

But Exum might also perform best if he starts his career at shooting guard and eases his way into playing point guard. In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant obviously has shooting guard locked down. And can the Lakers depend on Steve Nash to become a viable starting point guard again in the meantime?

If the Lakers can remain patient through another season – especially if it includes developing Exum through his growing pains – they’ll be better off in the long run. But will Kobe tolerate another losing season as his career winds down? Will the Los Angeles fans? The Lakers haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons in 20 years.

If Kobe is most-concerned about his legacy, and I think he is, he should focus on winning another title – and passing Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. The latter would require fewer than 12 points per game in Kobe’s next 50 contests, so that’s inevitable if Kobe can get back on the court.

Back to the championship.

No matter how the Lakers focus on building the strongest team possible next season, I can’t see them creating a title contender. So, Kobe should want them to focus on 2015-16, the final year of his contract extension.

By his second season, Dwyane Wade was the best player on a team that reached Game 7 of the conference finals, pulling an aging but still effective Shaquille O’Neal with him. Could Exum and Kobe fill that role in two years? It’s a longshot, but it might be Kobe’s best shot of getting his sixth title – along with the the Lakers waiting until 2015 to pursue a stronger crop of free agents (including Love).

First, though, the Lakers would actually have to get Exum. Exum and Pelinka can turn down workouts and try to threaten Exum’s way to the Lakers, but the Lakers can do much more themselves to get into position to draft him.

At 19-39, the Lakers are on pace to have the league’s fourth-best lottery odds. Lose a few more games down the stretch, the chance to nab Exum only increases.

As the the chance to draft Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle or anyone else. It’s early in the process. I doubt the Lakers even know yet whom they prefer.

If the interest with Exum is mutual, he and the Lakers can explore exploiting the draft process later. For now, the Lakers should focus on tanking and evaluating, and Exum should focus on developing.

  1. brewdogg - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:45 AM

    Okay, not saying Love won’t leave and sign with the Lakers, because the possibility does exist, but let’s take an honest assessment of this situation:

    1. Kobe doesn’t play well with post guys, Gasol not withstanding. He also doesn’t seem overly willing to share the lead with anyone else. Can’t say this is something Love would necessarily be interested in…..

    2. Assuming Love does decide that he can work with Kobe, that only lasts for a couple years, and given the current state of the roster, that would mean going through rebuilding…again. Do you think he wants to spend his prime years carrying a roster relatively devoid of talent?

    3. If you Laker fans are counting on drawing another star to LA to pair with him…how’s that working in New York? Brooklyn? There’s no guarantee there, and everyone knows it. It worked in Boston because they already had a good core of role players and an emerging point guard, not to mention the fact that two of those stars were willing to accept their supporting roles. It worked in Miami because of the novelty and expectations involved, meaning that solid veteran players were willing to play for the minimum to ride along to a championship. Do you really see anyone to pair with Love that would equate to either of these scenarios? If not, than the likelihood is that it will fail.

    4. If Adelman steps away after this year, you can bet that Love will get a major say in the new coach. Combine that with the fact that there will be $13 million in cap space shed after the ’14-’15 season (assuming Rubio is made a qualifying offer and Shved is not) or $18 million if Budinger does not pick up his player option, while still keeping the entire starting lineup and the two rookie reserves (Muhammad and Dieng) under contract, Minnesota is in a much better position to field a competitive team at that junction. He may not opt out just so he can see what management can do with that, and play out that final year before making a decision.

    5. We all heard the same thing last time Love was approaching the end of his contract. What did he do that time? Oh, right, he signed with the Wolves. Without the max deal. Just saying…..

    So will he jump ship and head to LA. Maybe. But to think that it is a slam dunk, a foregone conclusion, or even a logical possibility is delusional. Although, given what is posted on here, I don’t really expect anything more than that from some of you Laker fans. One would think that the steady decline and increasing irrelevance of this franchise over the last three years would have humbled you, but I guess you are just the NBA version of Steeler fans and Yankee fans. So be it. Enjoy being the side show to the Clippers for the foreseeable future.

  2. billtetley53 - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    AZ dem, You may have been around back then, but you’re completely off base on his reaso for wanting out of Milwaukee.

    He wanted to leave due to cultural reasons. Having just converted to the Muslim faith, he felt isolated in a relatively small Midwest town. Read his autobiographies, he says it right in there.
    In the early 70s athletes weren’t making huge dollars from commercials.

    It caused a firestorm when he changed his name from Alcindor. It was the times and the stifled Midwest attitude, not monetary reasons.

  3. getlow81 - Mar 1, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    Exum is like a less-aware. taller, worse defensive, and line-drive shooting Derrick Rose…he has potential, but potential is nothing more than what you could be rather than what you are.

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