EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Dennis Schroeder said he had a sense of “unfinished business” after completing his first practice Monday in his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
While the 29-year-old point guard said his goal was to win bigger than Los Angeles, he was in his first year with the franchise when the Lakers’ repeat title race suffered a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns. And it fell short — he also talked about a business decision he made in the 2020-21 season that has haunted him.
Schroder signed a one-year, $2.64 million contract with the Lakers last month, claiming the Lakers never offered him the four-year, $84 million deal he was eligible to sign that season. Renew the contract.
“I mean, at the end of the day, there was never a contract,” Schroeder said. “Never had a contract, never refused anything…that’s not true.”
This seems to be a semantic issue.
A source familiar with negotiations between Schroder’s then-representative and the Lakers told ESPN that when the Lakers had talks about a contract extension in February 2021, Schroder’s team said they would rather wait until the offseason. Discuss his deal in free agency.
The fortunes of Schroder and the Lakers changed forever. The Lakers are 22-7 in contract negotiations in mid-February and go 20-23 the rest of the way as injuries and absences from COVID-19 affect the roster. Schroder, on the other hand, was mediocre in the playoff loss to Phoenix, averaging 14.3 points on 40 percent shooting and 2.8 assists per game.
When the offseason came around, Los Angeles wasn’t interested in offering the type of long-term deal it intended to discuss a few months ago, and ended up trading Russell Westbrook for point guard.
Schroder eventually signed a one-year, $5.9 million deal with the Boston Celtics and ended the season with the Houston Rockets after being traded.
Schroeder even made fun of himself for the more than $80 million gap between what he could have done and what he had signed, posting a photo of him holding his head in his hands on his Instagram and inviting followers to post on Instagram. Write jokes in the comments about how he “groped for the bag”.
Still, he was enthusiastic on Monday when he talked about his new opportunity with the Lakers, citing his close relationship with coach Darwin Hamm, who spent five years with the Atlanta Hawks starting when he was a rookie.
“I’m going to make sure that whatever I can do, I’m going to win games for the team,” Schroeder said. “I mean, Coach Darwin knows. He’s known me for 10 years. He knows what I bring. Whatever it is, I’ll do anything to get the W and finish the unfinished business.”
Maybe the basketball industry will treat him better for the second time in Los Angeles, too.
“The whole situation with the Lakers, it’s kind of weird,” he said. “That’s why I said ‘I’ll even play for free here’, just to get it right, just to get everybody going in the right direction.
“Of course it would be great to sign a big contract and a long-term deal, that’s still my goal. But at the end of the day, we’re here now and I’m going to do everything I can to help my teammates win the game right now.”