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For all the change that has been happening in the Lakers’ front office, the team is also transitioning in a new way this year: they are opening a new practice facility. The announcement came last season with a ground breaking and virtual tour of what the new space would look like taking place earlier this year.

It’s all very exciting stuff and one of several ways the organization is beginning to leverage their deep pockets and stature as an LA institution (the team partnered with UCLA health to build the facility) to improve the outlook and trajectory of the franchise.

With construction nearly complete, the team put Mike Trudell in a hardhat, dispatched a camera crew, and took us inside the space for a tour. It looks as impressive in person as the list of amenities would imply:

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Shortly after we discussed the Lakers’ front office (and coaches) needing to find ways to improve for the organization to take a step forward this summer, reports have surfaced of changes within the front office which (they hope) will do just that. First it was Tim DiFrancesco resigning his post as strength and conditioning coach. Then came the resignation of director of basketball analytics Yuju Lee after the FO asked him to take on a reduced role.

And while these examples are “resignations” I would guess they are tied to a larger organizational shift being powered by Pelinka and Magic to revamp every area of the front office. I mean, the reporting on Lee already tells us the FO tried to demote him so it’s not hard to imagine DiFrancesco being presented with some marching orders he was not on board with and then resigning over them.

Anyways, what’s clear now is that the front office is not done. Far from it, actually. And it looks like the next area Pelinka and Magic want to impact is the scouting department. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus takes us inside the team’s plans:

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Resignations seem to be a theme of late for the Lakers. Before the end of the season, Assistant GM Glenn Carraro stepped down. Then, earlier this week Strength and Conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco followed suit by resigning his post. Now, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes is reporting Director of Basketball Analytics Yuju Lee has also resigned:

Sources tell ESPN that the Los Angeles Lakers tried to demote Yuju Lee, their director of basketball analytics, but he instead decided to leave the organization altogether.

We know very little about Lee beyond what information was divulged in a press release from 2015 (when the Lakers also announced promotions for Jesse Buss and Ryan West). At that time, I wrote that I found it interesting Mitch Kupchak had decided to pull back the curtain on who was on the analytics staff, citing their credentials and background in a manner which was not consistent with the secretive manner the team operated with around this department to that point.

It was ultimately revealed that, considering the losing period the team was going through and the perception the Lakers were behind the times and an organization which did not fully embrace analytics’ value to the sport, Kupchak felt it necessary to be more transparent and forthcoming in an effort to help appease fans’ concerns in this area.

Now, though, Lee is moving on after the Lakers tried to demote him. So, does that mean the team is now taking a step backwards? My guess is the answer to that question is “no” and that has nothing to do with what I think of Lee or the job he was doing with the team. After all, I know very little about Lee and while I can rattle off the information provided about him and his credentials, those are only bullet points on press release.

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The Lakers have released a statement that F Luol Deng had surgery to repair his right pectoral muscle on Wednesday. Per the release, the surgery was a success and Deng is expected to be ready for training camp. All of which is good news.

Unlike every other player, Deng did not have a post-exit interview media session so this is the first I’d heard of Deng having a pectoral issue. That, combined with Deng being shut down for the final 22 games of the season gives us an incomplete picture of how long he was hurt, how it occurred, or the true severity of it all. Clearly it was serious enough to be repaired surgically, but the Lakers’ release gives us little more than a vague timeline and a thumbs up for it being a success.

So, yeah.

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I’m not one to overly praise the Celtics for any of their successes, but it’s pretty clear they are on a roll in the playoffs now. After falling behind to the Bulls 0-2 in the 1st round, the C’s have rattled off six straight W’s to close out Chicago and then hold their home court against the Wizards.

Key to this streak has been the play of Isaiah Thomas, who, while dealing with the tragic death of his sister in a car accident, has performed up to his all-star abilities to carry the C’s offense. His play culminated with a 53 point outburst in an OT win over Washington on Tuesday, the day which would have been his recently passed sister’s 23rd birthday. To say this was an emotional day isn’t doing the circumstances justice and after the game Thomas remarked that he’s playing this way for her.

Thomas will be the first to tell you, though, that his play isn’t just about him, but also about those around him who have shown him support and aided him in his preparation to get on the court to perform. While most would think this only about his personal and professional family with the Celtics. Thomas also credited one Kobe Bean Bryant for helping him out as him and his team have reached their stride:

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It seems we are still feeling the fallout of the seismic shift in the Lakers’ front office. Whenever there is a power change of that magnitude, the ripple effects are felt throughout the organization and can sometimes take time to manifest. Be it firings or, as with Assistant GM Glenn Carraro before the end of the season, having staff step down, change begets change.

The Lakers saw more of that on Tuesday with a key member of their training staff.

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With the playoffs in full swing and the draft lottery not for a few more weeks, all is quiet out of El Segundo for these Lakers. The players have surely started their off-season routines, building on the season that was and using their exit interviews to inform their path ahead. For fans, out focus naturally drifts to them — the people on the court playing the games. Can they improve their craft and come back ready to make an impact on the floor next year?

This is the natural approach and the answers for each individual player are pertinent. But we’d be lying if we said that was the only area which needed improvement or where change could be used to elevate the team. When examining the Lakers’ front office and coaching staff, we should also be looking for them to take positive steps forward and come back improved for next season.

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By nature, I am someone who tries to see the good in players. As someone who is constantly examining team building and roster construction I cannot ignore player weaknesses, but those truths must be mixed with what a player does well to paint a full picture. Then, the ultimate goal, is to build a roster which can simultaneously cover up as many of its players’ weaknesses while optimizing as many of their strengths. This is how you get a team that can produce at a level that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Thinking about this brings me to Luol Deng. We don’t need to re-legislate the past, but Deng is overpaid. That happened the second he signed his deal in July 2016. He makes roughly $18 million a year and did not produce on the court at a level approaching that this past season. Deng posted a PER of 10.1 and had an Offensive Real Plus Minus of -1.51 (which ranked 50th among all small forwards in the league). Not promising, especially in the first year of his contract.

These don’t paint a good picture for Deng and his future on the Lakers. However, the contract he signed last summer gives the Lakers limited options in terms of finding an adequate solution for all sides. I mean, realistically, they could do one of the following four things this summer/heading into next season:

  • Waive him outright.
  • Waive him using the stretch provision.
  • Trade him.
  • Bench him permanently/make him a fringe rotation player.

Actually, there’s a fifth option too. But we’ll get to that in a second. Of the four above, I’d argue none of those will actually happen this summer.

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