Back with Lakers, Dennis Schroder eyes 'unfinished business'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Dennis Schroder said he harbors a feeling of "unfinished business" after completing his first practice of his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

While the 29-year-old point guard stated his goal is to win bigger than Los Angeles did during his first year with the franchise -- when the Lakers' repeat title bid fell short with a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns -- he also addressed a business decision he made during the 2020-21 season that has haunted him ever since.

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

"I mean, end of the day, there never was a contract," Schroder said. "There never was a contract, never rejected anything ... That's not true."

It appears to be an issue of semantics.

A source familiar with the negotiations between Schroder's representative at the time and the Lakers told ESPN that when L.A. broached a conversation about an extension in February 2021, Schroder's side said they would rather wait until the offseason to discuss a deal when he reached free agency.

Schroder's and the Lakers' fortunes changed from there. The Lakers, who raced out to a 22-7 record in mid-February when those contract conversations were occurring, went 20-23 the rest of the way, as injuries and COVID-19 absences hit the roster. And Schroder was underwhelming in that playoff loss to Phoenix, averaging 14.3 points on 40% shooting and 2.8 assists.

When the offseason came, Los Angeles was uninterested in offering the same type of long-term deal it intended to discuss months earlier and ended up trading for Russell Westbrook to play point guard.

Schroder ended up signing a one-year, $5.9 million deal with the Boston Celtics and finished the season with the Houston Rockets after being traded.

Schroder even poked fun at himself for the more-than-$80 million disparity between what he could have made and what he signed for, posting a photo to his Instagram of him holding his head in his hands and inviting followers to write jokes in the comments about how he "fumbled the bag."

Nonetheless, he appeared enthusiastic when speaking about his new opportunity with the Lakers on Monday, citing his strong relationship with coach Darvin Ham, who coached him for five years, starting when he was a rookie, with the Atlanta Hawks.

"I'm going to make sure everything I can do, I'll bring to the team to win ballgames," Schroder said. "I mean, Coach Darvin knows. He's known me for 10 years now. He knows what I bring. And whatever it is, I'm going to do whatever to get a W and to finish the unfinished business."

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

"The whole situation with the Lakers, that was a little weird," he said. "That's the reason why I said, 'I'll even play for free here,' just to make it right, just to put everybody in the right direction.

"Of course, it would be great to sign a big deal and a longer-term deal, and that's my goal still. But the end of the day, we are here now and I'm going to do everything I can right now to just help my teammates win ballgames."