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Five takeaways from Lakers hiring J.J. Redick — it’s just the first step

Redick needs right supporting cast to succeed
Dan Patrick discusses his thoughts on the Los Angeles Lakers signing JJ Redick as their next head coach and who they could add to the coaching staff.

J.J. Redick will be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

That’s both expected yet still surprising. Redick’s name popped up as a potential candidate from the moment Darvin Ham was fired (and, in speculative circles, even before Ham was fired). He’s been the clear frontrunner through most of the process, except for a dalliance with Dan Hurley of UConn.

Still, it’s surprising because the Lakers have gone with a completely inexperienced coach at a transitional time for the franchise — trying to win now in the final years of LeBron James’ career while building something sustainable for a post-LeBron world.

The Lakers made a high-risk, high-reward hire. Here are five takeaways from the move.

Hiring Redick only first step, roster upgrades are needed

It doesn’t matter if Redick is good as a head coach or not if Lakers GM Rob Pelinka doesn’t upgrade the roster this offseason.

LeBron James — not so coincidentally Redick’s podcast partner — and Anthony Davis remain the anchors. Redick told the Lakers during the interview process he wants to increase Davis’ role, reports The Athletic.

Redick described a system molded around this roster, focusing on elevating Anthony Davis’ involvement, particularly late in games, and alleviating the constant ballhandling duties on James by utilizing him more off the ball. Keeping James, who turns 40 in December, fresh down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs will be critical.

That means finding another high-level ball handler and shot creator on the trade market. Trae Young is a name that has come up as a potential trade target, and within a couple hours of Redick being hired Young posted this on X (formerly Twitter).

The Lakers need more than stars. Look at the last two NBA champions — Boston and Denver — and it’s clear how important it is to have quality role players who fit well around the stars. In addition to another ball handler, Pelinka needs to upgrade the talent on the wings (having a healthy Jarred Vanderbilt will help), and find a traditional center who can ease the minutes at the five Anthony Davis plays (Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes are not the answer to matching up with Nikola Jokic).

Redick needs to do his part, putting players in better positions and developing players like Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and Max Christie to take the next steps in their careers.

Ultimately, talent wins in the NBA, and the Lakers need more of it if they want to avoid the play-in next season in what will be a deeper and better Western Conference.

Be patient, give Redick time to grow into the job

Give Rob Pelinka credit, he didn’t play it safe.

Redick is a hire that breaks the mold — it’s not a former head coach or top assistant, and it’s not a former Laker (in fact, he’s a former Clipper).

The Lakers needed their mold to be broken, to try something new.

With that has to come patience. Maybe the most mentioned statistic during the Lakers coaching search was that the team had finished higher than seventh in the West just once in the last dozen years (2020, when they won the title). Coach turnover has been a sign of an impatient front office and ownership without a plan — no coach since Phil Jackson has lasted more than three years with the Lakers.

Redick could be the guy to break that streak, but the Lakers need to be patient — let him learn on the job. Let him make mistakes, suffer losses and grow. Boston management didn’t freak out at Joe Mazzulla’s rookie struggles (he was thrown into the job at the last minute his first year, to be fair). He obviously grew into the role.

One thing in Redick’s favor: if he fails in this job ax is not just going to be swinging at him. This is Rob Pelinka’s third coach hire with the Lakers, and during that process he tried to lowball Tyronn Lue (just three years and wanted to put coaches on his staff) and then didn’t offer Hurley enough money to get him out of UConn (that number may have been beyond Pelinka’s control, but then don’t go down the road).

Because Pelinka knows he’s in trouble if Redick is another swing and a miss, he should be patient.

Redick has to manage pressure, expectations

One of the harder parts of the Lakers’ coaching job is dealing with the spotlight, the rabid fan base and the outsized expectations compared to the talent on the roster — and that’s not just the fans, it’s the front office as well. The Lakers only hang championship banners and incremental success is rarely celebrated. It can lead to short term thinking in roster building.

The unreasonable expectations will start this season. Lakers fans will prop up the team’s roster saying that Denver is the only team that has beaten them in the playoffs the last two years. As always, expectations will be high. Reality says the Lakers have to be ranked behind Dallas, Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and Memphis (a 50+ win team that gets everybody back healthy) to start the season. That has the Lakers looking like a 6-8 seed and probably a play-in team again. That’s may not sit well with LeBron, the front office or the fan base.

Redick has to not let all the media attention, fans on social media and the expectations get to him. Just keep grinding.

Help Redick with veteran staff of assistant coaches

Becase he hasn’t, Redick needs people around him who have done this before. The Lakers need to spend on assistant coaches and assemble a veteran staff to help guide the rookie coach.

That starts with getting an experienced former head coach as a lead assistant. Former Thunder coach Scott Brooks, now an assistant in Portland, is one name that came up. Another is former 76ers head coach and former Spurs assistant Brett Brown. It never hurts to lob Stan Van Gundy a call, although whether he wants to leave his comfy broadcast chair to be an assistant coach is up for debate.

After that, find veteran former players. Rajon Rondo has been mentioned. So have Jared Dudley in Dallas and Sam Cassell in Boston (although pulling those guys off winning teams is unlikely and very expensive if successful).

Whoever it is, give Redick some guys he can lean on.

Let Redick be Redick (stop with Spoelstra comps)

This ties somewhat into the patience topic above — don’t try to put Redick in the box of being the next Pat Riley or Erik Spoelstra. Let him be Redick.

Some fans and media have wanted to compare Redick to Miami’s hiring of Spoelstra, the man today considered the best coach in the league. That’s a terrible analogy. Spoelstra never played in the NBA and started as a video coordinator, worked his way up through the ranks, proved he was a grinder, became an assistant coach, learned and got better, then had the right mix of preparation and personality when he got the job. Plus, he had Pat Riley’s backing (even in the face of LeBron James wanting him gone). That is not Redick’s path.

Riley isn’t Redick’s path either, while he had been a broadcaster he’d also been an assistant coach for a couple of years.

It doesn’t mean Redick won’t work out — he very well could. His basketball IQ and work ethic are not in question. While Redick’s lack of experience is a concern, he is not someone who comes to the job with the red flags seen in some first-time head coaches.

But be patient, give him a chance, and let Redick be Redick.