The Los Angeles Lakers have promoted Jordan Wilkes to Director of Player Development, the team announced today. Wilkes, the son of Lakers great Jamaal Wilkes, has been with the organization since the 2013-14 season as a Basketball Operations Assistant. The responsibilities of his new role will include assisting Rob Pelinka in day-to-day operations, as well as providing Lakers players with resources, guidance, and life skills as a part of their off court development.
Wilkes replaces Rondre Jackson, who held the position for two seasons, and won the Dana Davis Award for the best player development work in the NBA in the 2015-16 season. This was a move that was coming for some time, if not necessarily for Wilkes. Earlier this summer, the Lakers interviewed several former NBA players for this position, including Corey Maggette, Mo Peterson, and Lester Conner. The team decided to stay in house, however, and promoted Wilkes.
Pelinka and Magic Johnson have placed a great deal of emphasis on enhancing the culture of the organization, and this promotion provides a bit of structure to that end, to help a young roster adjust to the realities of the NBA life off of the court. As fans, we often forget how inexperienced these guys are not only on the hardwood, but also as people, so having mechanisms in place that can help them navigate the NBA lifestyle more effectively is a smart, worthwhile investment. Yet Rondre Jackson was recognized amongst his peers for his on court work, and it will be interesting to see who assumes that role as the Lakers continue to restructure to fit the vision of the new front office.
In addition to Wilkes’ promotion, the Lakers bolstered their Strength and Conditioning team, headed by Gunnar Peterson, promoting Josh Wright to Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach, while hiring Adi Vase for the same role, and adding Kristen Andrews as Manager of Nutrition and Wellness. Andrews was the Sports Performance Dietician for the 2016-17 Los Angeles Galaxy, while Vase worked as an Athletic Development Quality Assurance Assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.
Not only has the roster undergone a significant makeover, with only 6 players remaining from last season’s opening day roster, but they move into the brand new UCLA Health Training Center with a vastly restructured support staff as well.