Hernández: Lakers' hiring of JJ Redick as coach is really out of the box

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The Lakers are in search of assistant coaches — and coders.


JJ Redick’s appointment as head coach was more out of the box than anyone thought.

General manager Rob Pelinka opened Redick’s introductory news conference on Monday by emphasizing the importance of “innovation” and being “forward thinking.”

Asked later if the Lakers would expand their analytics and scouting departments to assist Redick in modernizing the franchise, Pelinka replied, “JJ and I have had some really robust conversations around innovation and sort even gamifying player development. If you think about a 20-year-old basketball player today and maybe a 20-year-old basketball player 10, 15, 20 years ago, the [mediums] of learning are completely different.”

Pelinka continued, “Kids and athletes are learning in new and innovative ways. So we’ve talked about how do we translate coach Redick’s offensive system to an app-based or a phone-based deliverable where players can be buying into a philosophy and learning it in a way that meets today’s young player? And I think innovation has to be at the core of that. We have a vision of hiring out his support staff in sort of this tech-bullpen way of getting innovative minds to help bring his basketball strategy and bring his basketball philosophy to life in a way our players can grasp it, learn it and actually grow their basketball IQ.”

Pelinka sounded as if he was describing an expensive and ineffective training device sold on infomercials, and this is what the Lakers are counting on to build a contender under a new collective-bargaining agreement that restricts player movement?

Seems as much of a Hail Mary as entrusting their team to a coach who has never previously coached.

In case it’s not already obvious, the Lakers are desperate.

They’re desperate because what they’re doing isn’t working. They have LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and that’s if James doesn’t elect to play elsewhere next season — and not much else.

Rebuilding the roster was already a significant undertaking, considering what they had to trade and the money they had available, and doing so will be even more difficult under the new regulations.

Why not hire Redick?

There might not be any evidence that he can turn the Lakers into contenders, but there isn’t any that he can’t, either.

Why not boast about a mobile phone application that hasn’t been developed yet?

Transforming the team with technology that remains in a conceptual stage is as realistic as anything else they’ve tried.

However, if this is the vision the Lakers have, they have to commit to it. If they see a mobile phone application as part of their future, owner Jeanie Buss will have to invest in a mobile phone application.

The Lakers spend money on players, but not much else. They have a small front office. They have a small analytics department. They have a small scouting department.

They ended up with an entirely unknown quantity as their coach because they wouldn’t spend. They wouldn’t spend on Tyronn Lue when they had a chance to hire him in 2019. They wouldn’t spend what was necessary to land Connecticut coach Dan Hurley.

They’re behind the times, and before they can move in front of the field, they first have to catch up.

Buying into a coach’s vision — in this case, Redick’s — and not backing it 100% will result in failure. It always has. It always will.

For his part, Redick was calm and measured on Monday.

He spoke of wanting his players to shoot more three-pointers — and that included LeBron James. He said he pictured Anthony Davis as the “hub” of the Lakers’ attack. He talked about creating mismatches for Rui Hachimura.

He also described the importance of the Lakers’ G-League team and the greater importance of franchises drafting and developing talent.

No one — not Buss, not Pelinka, not Redick himself — knows how any of these ideas will translate to the court. But the Lakers have to give him a chance. They have to give him a chance by hiring well-paid assistants. By expanding their analytics department. By improving their scouting department.

And, evidently, by developing digital teaching aids for their younger players.

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