Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on missing out on Kawhi Leonard: 'You just don't look back'

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was tasked with the challenge of rebuilding Los Angeles’ roster around superstar LeBron James this offseason. 

With a blockbuster trade to acquire Anthony Davis from the Pelicans for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers’ next goal was to land Kawhi Leonard in free agency. 

While they did everything they could to persuade the NBA Finals MVP to sign with the Lakers, Leonard ultimately signed with the crosstown rival Clippers. 

Pelinka, however, isn’t dwelling on “what could have been” for the Lakers.

“I really haven’t spent a lot of time either thinking about or characterizing that,” Pelinka said Friday of missing out on Leonard (via ESPN). “Because once the decision was made, we had all of our chess pieces on the board to make our moves and close. And at that point you just don’t look back. I think of course when superstars are available, you put your best foot forward.”

Pelinka said that he believes the Lakers reacted really well and went with their second plan. L.A. filled out its roster by adding DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green, Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook and Avery Bradley. They also re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and JaVale McGee.

He explained that he valued input from Davis and James to help build out Los Angeles’ roster. 

“I think the conversations we have with our players, we want to keep those private just because they are important,” Pelinka said. “But anytime as a general manager when you have superstars on your team, especially guys that have the basketball IQ and just the understanding of the game that Anthony Davis and LeBron have, of course, you are going to be tapping into them as partners.

“We view our relationships here with our star players here as partnerships. I know both Anthony and LeBron are excited about the 14 guys and how we are going to come together, and their input, both of their input, Anthony and LeBron, has been incredibly valuable to me.”

After missing out on the top free agent in 2019, Pelinka said he will continue to learn from past mistakes. 

“I think the greatest teacher in life for all of us is experience,” Pelinka said. “And I think that to be great at anything, you have to learn from the past. I think we took a lot of what happened last year into account in kind of shaping this roster and shaping our goals for the season. The North Star for us was just we wanted to add more shooting. We wanted to have perimeter defenders, high-IQ players, guys with high character, and then a versatile lineup.

“You always have to learn – and evolve and adapt as a leader – from the past.”

The Lakers are coming off a season in which they finished 10th in the Western Conference with a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season.