10-time All-Star small forward Paul Pierce, who spent 15 of his 19 NBA seasons with the Lakers fans’ least favorite basketball team, has spoken out about LA’s multiple roster teardowns, following team vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka.
Pierce led his Boston Celtics to two NBA Finals against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the rest of your Los Angeles Lakers, winning in 2008. The 6’7-inch wing was named Finals MVP for his efforts, despite being nominally the best Players on this team was Kevin Garnett, who won the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Yesterday, the Hall of Famer took to (where else?) Twitter to address Pelinka’s bizarre approach to team building since 2020. The entire Lakers roster was completely reshuffled over the following seasons, with the exception of All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With most of the same players but also several nagging injuries, the club ended 2021 No. 7 in the West (but No. 1 in defense) and could possibly even pull off a first-round upset over the Phoenix the Suns had Davis not injured during their quarterfinal series. Pelinka then dropped several key role players to acquire a terrible roster, Russell Westbrook, in the 2021 offseason. LA finished with a 33-49 record and missed the playoffs entirely. Talen Horton-Tucker (along with newer role-player Stanley Johnson), James and Davis’ only remaining teammate for the 2020 championship, was treated for Patrick Beverley in the 2022 off-season.
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LA decided to extend Pelinka to 2026 this summer. After probably seeing the disappointing performance of every Laker not named Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, or Kendrick Nunn in the team’s 2022-23 season opener, a 123-109 loss to the Warriors, Pierce reflected on the Pelinka deal after.
Former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, who led LA to their 17th NBA title in his first season with the team in 2019-20, was fired by Jeanie Buss and Pelinka at the end of the 2021-22 season. It’s hard to imagine that even Phil Jackson could elicit a playoff appearance from this sad team given the number of games James and Davis missed through injury last year (26 and 42 respectively). The problem was Pelinka’s staffing decisions, not Vogel’s coaching.
Westbrook, on the other hand, has been far worse for LA than his numbers suggest. His troubles have been repeated many times by this author, but just for refresher, the 6’3″ veteran has developed into one of the worst volume shooters in the league and remains a disinterested defender and off-ball cutter.