Don’t look now, but the Lakers are getting antsy again. As if overhauling their roster in the offseason wasn’t enough, they’re now angling to become major players in the Dec. 15 sweepstakes. The date is continually circled in many a general manager’s calendar; it signals the eligibility of players signed to new contracts for inclusion in trade negotiations. And, apparently, it’s also important to Rob Pelinka, who can dangle eight cogs in purple and gold as bait.

If speculation is to be believed, the Lakers are targeting the Sixers’ Ben Simmons once talks get under way today. The appeal of the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate is clear, and it doesn’t hurt that resident superstar LeBron James also has Rich Paul as agent, and that Klutch Sports has cozy ties with the franchise as a result. Not that the going will be easy; about a third of the league wants to welcome the 2016 first overall pick, so there will be stiff competition.

Normally, the Lakers have the upper hand when it comes to staking claims on marquee names. Glitz and glamour, plus the lure and allure of a colorful history of winning, serve to entice would-be stalwarts. In this case, however, Sixers president of hoops operations Daryl Morey isn’t in a hurry to deal Simmons — even if addition by subtraction figures to be the best solution for everyone involved. And because he’s willing to wait out the process, the inevitable bidding could jack the price to a prohibitive point.

Deal or no deal, however, the fact that the Lakers are kicking the tires at this juncture in the 2021-22 campaign speaks volumes about their iffy standing. True, they’ve won five of their last seven outings, finally injecting some semblance of consistency to the cause. On the other hand, there can be no overestimating the quality of the opposition they beat; the Pistons, Kings, Thunder, and Magic aren’t exactly of the top-shelf variety. And it bears noting that James had to turn in vintage performances in order for them to claim the victories.

Bottom line, the Lakers continue to be a work in progress with a third of the season already part of history. Adding yet another big question mark cannot but complicate things. Then again, they’ve invariably been all or nothing in their definition and treatment of success. Anything in between counts as a disappointment.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.