Back with Lakers, Dennis Schroder sees ‘unfinished business’

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Dennis Schroder said he felt “unfinished business” after completing the first practice of his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

As the 29-year-old point guard expressed his goal to win more than Los Angeles did in his first year with the franchise — when the Lakers’ bid for a repeat title suffered a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns — he talked about the trade decision he made in the 2020-21 season and his regrets since.

Schroder, who signed a one-year, $2.64 million contract with the Lakers last month, said the Lakers never offered him the four-year, $84 million contract extension he was eligible to sign that season.

“At the end of the day, I mean, it wasn’t a contract,” Schroeder said. “There was no contract at all, nothing was rejected… This is not true.”

It seems to be a matter of interpretation.

A source familiar with the negotiations between Schroder’s agent and the Lakers at the time told ESPN that when LA discussed an extension in February 2021, Schroder’s side would prefer to wait until free agency to discuss a deal.

Schroder and the Lakers’ fortunes changed from there. In the year The Lakers, who had a 22-7 record at the time of those contract talks in mid-February, went 20-23 the rest of the way, as injuries and COVID-19 absences plagued the roster. And Schroder averaged 14.3 points on 40% shooting and 2.8 assists in the playoff loss to Phoenix.

Come the offseason, Los Angeles was unwilling to offer the long-term deal it had discussed months ago and traded for Russell Westbrook to play point guard.

Schroder signed a one-year, $5.9 million contract with the Boston Celtics and ended the offseason by being traded to the Houston Rockets.

Even Schroder poked fun at himself with the $80 million difference he could have made and signed, holding his head in his hands and posting a photo on Instagram of how he “exploded his wallet” for his followers to write jokes in the comments.

Still, he appeared enthusiastic about his new opportunity with the Lakers on Monday, citing his strong relationship with coach Darwin Hamm, who has coached him for five years since he was a rookie with the Atlanta Hawks.

“I’m going to make sure everything I can do, I bring to the team to win ballgames,” Schroeder said. “I mean, he knows Coach Darwin. He’s known me for 10 years now, he knows what I’m going to bring. And no matter what, I’m going to do anything to get the W and finish the unfinished business.”

And maybe the business of basketball will treat him better his second time in Los Angeles.

“The whole situation with the Lakers was a little weird,” he said. “That’s why he said, ‘I’m here to play for free,’ just to do the right thing, to put everyone in the right direction.”

“Obviously signing a big deal and a long-term deal is great, and it’s still my goal. But at the end of the day, we’re here now and I’m just trying to do the best I can. Help my teammates win ballgames.”

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