There's no denying that their 4-0 sweep in the Western Conference Finals against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Los Angeles Lakers fans everywhere — one that will probably linger for an extended period. Nevertheless, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is adamant that there are still a lot of things to be proud about after what has been a roller coaster of a 2022-23 campaign for the Purple & Gold.

Pelinka did concede that the Lakers ultimately failed to reach their objectives this season, but at the same time, the high-ranking executive believes that this year was a crucial step toward LA winning an NBA record 18th championship:

“I think this was a season of advancement and growth for the Lakers,” Pelinka said via Anthony Gharib of Lakers Nation. “Obviously, we didn’t achieve our ultimate goal, which is [banner] No. 18, which is something we always have our sights on. But it really starts by giving a lot of credit to Darvin and his staff for establishing really a pillar of our organization and that’s the way we compete to the bitter end.

“And I think obviously starting the season, the way we did for Darvin and his staff to keep the belief with the players and the competition alive at every moment all the way until the last play [Monday] night,” Pelinka said. “This was a team that competed to the bitter end and I think that’s something as an organization that we owe to our fans. It’s something we demand out of our players and it really starts with our head coach and leader and the qualities he’s instilled. So, again I think the way I would characterize this season is advancement and growth towards our ultimate goal which is No. 18.”

Pelinka also noted that the Lakers intend to move forward with their LeBron James-Anthony Davis core as they look to continue to build around their two cornerstone superstars. LeBron has yet to make his announcement on whether or not he will be back for Year 21, but the general expectation is that the NBA's all-time leading scorer isn't done just yet. With LeBron and AD leading the way, Lakers fans believe that it is only a matter of time before they raise banner No. 18 in the rafters of Arena.