Less than two years ago, it looked like the Los Angeles Lakers were about to start the next NBA dynasty. LeBron James and Anthony Davis formed the league’s best duo and won a championship in 2020. The 2020-2021 season got off to a great start as the team had a 21-6 record through 27 games and looked like the favorites. That was until injuries started striking the team. Davis and LeBron missed big chunks of last season but were able to get healthy in time for the playoffs. In the first round, the Lakers had a 2-1 lead over the Phoenix Suns until Davis got injured again and the team dropped the next three games.
Nothing has gone right for Los Angeles since that injury to Davis. The team decided to trade their remaining assets to land Russell Westbrook, which has been an unmitigated disaster. The former MVP is not a good fit with this roster and that’s abundantly clear. The Lakers even had to consider trading Westbrook at the deadline and almost pulled the trigger. However, the team’s ownership had to step in.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers decided not to take give up any remaining assets at the trade deadline because the front office is putting blame on their star players for how this roster was constructed.
“My interpretation was, the Lakers front office, and that includes ownership, so let’s just say the Lakers organization from ownership on down decided ‘you got yourself into this, this is the bed you have made. LeBron, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard – all the future Hall of Famers – this is your choice of roster and team, go make it work, and we are not going to mortgage our future in terms of draft picks and in term of taking on luxury tax now because this team isn’t working now. Go make it work,'” Shelburne said on The Hoop Collective podcast.
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Why Alienate LeBron?
This is a bold strategy from the Lakers front office. It’s not a secret that LeBron and Davis played a big role in why the team traded for Westbrook. They’ve long been friends with the nine-time All-Star and perhaps they thought having a third star would take some pressure off them. Clearly, it was a mistake in hindsight.
However, it’s not LeBron’s job to construct the roster. Obviously, his opinion is valued but most objective NBA analysts knew that Westbrook wasn’t going to be a good fit. If vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka couldn’t explain that properly to LeBron, then perhaps he’s not fit to hold his position. The absolute worst thing the Lakers can do right now is alienate LeBron. He’s the only reason the team is relevant after they missed the playoffs for five seasons before he joined them. Plus, he’s heavily involved with Klutch Sports and Rich Paul, who is representing much of the top talent in the NBA.
Lakers Front Office Is a Mess
At this point, it’s difficult to know who is actually calling the shots for the Lakers. Is it Jeanie Buss, Linda Rambis, Kurt Rambis, Pelinka or even Magic Johsnon? In reality, it’s likely some messy version of all five of them. The Lakers front office was a disaster before LeBron joined the team and it’s clear that it still is.
The team was saved by the superstar and now they’re trying to put him in his place. That’s a disastrous strategy that could set the franchise back a long time. Winning can cure a lot but the Lakers just don’t have a good roster. Things could get really messy this offseason if this season ends in missing the playoffs or an early playoff exit.