Lakers Rumors: Rounding Up Latest Buzz Entering 2021 NBA Draft Lottery

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2021

Lakers Rumors: Rounding Up Latest Buzz Entering 2021 NBA Draft Lottery

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery will mean very little for the Los Angeles Lakers, who made the postseason and currently hold the 22nd overall pick.

    The upcoming offseason, however, is going to mean a lot for Los Angeles. The Lakers fell short of defending their championship by a large margin, bowing out in the first round to the Phoenix Suns. Changes to both the organization and the roster will come, and they could help determine if LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. are able to return to relevance in the 2021-22 season.

    Here, you'll find the latest Lakers buzz heading into the 2021 draft lottery.

Head Athletic Trainer Nina Hsieh Reportedly Let Go

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    Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

    At least one change to the Lakers organization appears to have already taken place. According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Los Angeles has decided to part ways with its head athletic trainer.

    "The Los Angeles Lakers are in the market to hire a new head athletic trainer after injuries ravaged their 2020-21 season," McMenamin wrote. "Nina Hsieh, promoted to head trainer two years ago, did not have her contract renewed, sources told ESPN."

    Hsieh spent more than a decade with the organization, first serving with L.A.'s G-league affiliate. She became the first female head athletic trainer on a championship team in major American professional sports history when the Lakers won the title in last year's bubble.

    Player health was an issue this past season, as both James and Davis missed extended periods during the regular season. This precipitated L.A. to fall in the standings, ultimately forcing the Lakers into a play-in series and then a matchup with the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns.

    While it's difficult to place any real blame on Hsieh for injuries that occurred on the court, the Lakers will nevertheless try out a different head athletic trainer next season.

A Kyle Kuzma Trade Could Be

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    While it's easy to blame James' and Davis' injuries on the Lakers' early exit, a lack of depth and supporting cast can also be to blame. Los Angeles struggled to stay competitive when the two were sidelined, which was perhaps the real reason why L.A. nearly missed the playoffs entirely.

    The problem now is that the Lakers could find it difficult to revamp their roster. The Lakers have a low draft pick and are scheduled projected to be over the salary cap this offseason. If L.A. is going to make a move, it may have to involve a trade.

    At this juncture, it seems that Kyle Kuzma is the biggest trade chip the Lakers have considered. Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer wrote last month that Los Angeles was interested in moving Kuzma ahead of the trade deadline.

    "They made a bunch of calls," one assistant general manager told Fischer. "They were very active."

    ESPN NBA insider Marc J. Spears recently stated that Kuzma "looks" like he's on the way out of Los Angeles (h/t NBA Central, while lobbying for a pursuit of the recently traded Kemba Walker.

    Perhaps in response to the trade chatter, Kuzma recently removed the Lakers from his Instagram account.

    It's unclear who Los Angeles might target in a Kuzma deal, but it is clear that the Lakers don't have many other tradeable assets.

Kostas Antetokounmpo Could Return to Greece This Offseason

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    While Kuzma may or may not be traded this offseason, Lakers forward Kostas Antetokounmpo is scheduled to reach restricted free agency—if the Lakers decide to extend a qualifying offer.

    Antetokounmpo missed the postseason while attending a personal matter in Greece. According to Stavros Barbarousis of Eurohoops, at least two teams are hoping he decides to return there on more of a long-term basis.

    "Olympiacos Piraeus and Panathinaikos Athens have inquired about big man Kostas Antetokounmpo according to Eurohoops sources," Barbarousis wrote.

    Antetokounmpo is currently with the Greek national team ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada. At this point, it feels like the Lakers would be uninterested in keeping Antetokounmpo as a restricted free agent.

    In his two seasons with Los Angeles, Antetokounmpo appeared in just 20 total games. He averaged a mere 3.8 minutes per appearance while averaging one point.

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