Lakers, Pacers deal

Will they or won’t they? That’s the question on the minds of many a hoops fan in the face of the deal both the Lakers and Pacers appear to want — but remain unable — to consummate. On one side is the embattled Russell Westbrook, and on the other are vital cogs Miles Turner and Buddy Hield — with a swap of the assets seemingly profiting all concerned. Leverage — or, to be more precise, the constant jockeying for position to create one — is the biggest reason, but there can also be no discounting the state of flux with which objectives are being set.

Notably, the impetus to win isn’t as pronounced with the low-key Pacers as with the always-under-the-microscope Lakers. In fact, it can be argued that, given generational talent Victor Wembanyama’s availability in the 2023 rookie draft, there is cause for the blue and gold to go the other way. They most certainly don’t want to be stuck in the middle: not bad enough to be a factor in the sweepstakes for the 7’3” sensation, and yet not good enough to even cast moist eyes on the hardware.

Needless to say, that’s not the case with the Lakers. For one thing, they need to make the most of the twilight years of top dog LeBron James; for all the athleticism he has lost to age and injury, he remains a formidable force who can propel the purple and gold to success with ample and, more importantly, proper support. Whether Turner and Hield can provide exactly the type of assistance that he needs and that can thrive alongside him remains to be seen. On paper, though, they check all the boxes, providing long-range shooting with a greater degree of accuracy on offense and significant coverage on defense.

Perhaps the Lakers will be spurred to err on the side of caution in light of their recent run of victories. They might have had a light schedule that included three outings against the lowly Spurs, but they met expectations. And Westbrook, beyond the still-abhorrent statistics, looks to have found a niche as a sixth man. No doubt, they’re likewise compelled to tread lightly since any arrangement with the Pacers means letting go of their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, adding to the of their inevitable rebuild once James retires.

Who knows when — or if — the Lakers and Pacers finally agree on a mutually beneficial arrangement? Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t, but this much is true: The result of their encounter yesterday will have no bearing on their ultimate course of action.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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