Source: ‘Couldn’t Believe’ Lakers Players Were Texting During Games

The woebegone Lakers.

Getty The woebegone Lakers.

The Lakers were several weeks into the season and several miles down their road to perdition. They spoke of hope to the outside world, and, true enough, the wheels hadn’t fully disengaged.

But the players knew.

On this night as the game was in progress, a friend working for another NBA team texted a Laker about getting together afterward. At halftime, something strange happened. The player texted back. The friend was even more stunned when he was told that coach Frank Vogel was standing in front of him.

“I couldn’t believe it. And later when we met up, he said he wasn’t the only motherf***** texting other people,” the employee told Heavy.

“He said it was nothing against Vogel. The players liked Frank and thought he knew what he was doing. They saw him as a good guy and a good basketball guy, but Frank had been marginalized too much. The Rambis component, the LeBron checking out component — it all served to sort of undermine Frank Vogel.”

Lakers’ Woes Went Beyond Injuries

There was the belief that if the Lakers could get healthy and stay that way long enough, they could work out the issues of their elderly, mismatched roster and ride LeBron James and Anthony Davis back to prominence. Yet they didn’t even make the play-in tournament. Injuries aside, there were too many self-inflicted wounds.

There were too many questions of who was in charge. Rob Pelinka is the general manager, but former player and coach Kurt Rambis is listed below him on the Laker organizational chart as Director, Basketball Operations. And there is the obvious influence of James and his agents at Klutch Sports.

“The players didn’t know who they were answering to, and I think Vogel took the brunt of that because he was the guy they saw every day,” said a league source. “It wasn’t fair. On a regular basis, Rambis would get on Vogel in front of staff and players — in practices, in the hallway where everybody can see it. He wasn’t taking it behind closed doors and laying it out. And what position does Rambis have? What’s his title? His title is friend of (team governor) Jeanie Buss.

“Trust me, Frank Vogel would have been happy to have been fired from that mess.”

Sympathy for Vogel

Another league executive also had sympathy for Vogel and the fact he was the one out front each day answering for the organization that had put the roster together.

“That had to be so hard. You can’t even be an apologist for yourself,” he said. “You have to simply take the harshness of, ‘We’re not getting it done. That’s on me. That’s on the coaching staff, the players. It’s on us.’ And you don’t necessarily have to identify, you say, ‘It’s on all of us.’

“And it is for the most part. Most failures are not coach-driven. Most failures are front office-driven in this league, because we fail to think it through. What we do is many of us try to play rotisserie basketball. We’re just trying to put together talent. We don’t actually understand that these guys are some sort of larger unit that relates to their interactions. And if you don’t think of chemistry, cohesion, compatibility, you’re lost.

“If your locker room isn’t good, you’re going to struggle,” the veteran exec continued. “And most front office guys don’t even know how to give the locker room much regard. They really don’t. And so as a result you put together this, this sort of mishmash of a group and they don’t get along.”

He then went a little deeper.

“Basketball is the most chemical game,” he said. “How many times do you actually call plays or sets in an NBA game? Not very often. You play, and you play off of each other, and you play off of each other because you’ve decided to play off each other. And you read each other, and you read the game, and you read the reactions, and that’s how you play. Well, if you don’t think it’s important for us to have a certain mutual respect for each other as competitors, then you’ve missed it. And that’s why most situations fall apart.”

With more than $82 million committed to James and Davis next season and Russell Westbrook certain to pick up his $47 million player option, the Lakers are weighed down and have little draft capital to use. A report from veteran reporter Marc Stein this week suggests that Westbrook could be bought out, which would represent a huge waste of cap space.

“They’ve got no options,” said a league source. “They got no draft picks. The most they’ll ever have is a couple of exceptions. Anybody that does this knows you have to have one week plan, a one month plan, a one season plan, a one year plan, a three year plan, five year plan, seven year plan. They didn’t have any of those on the back end. Two seasons. They got their championship in the bubble, and that’s it.”

According to a Western Conference source, Magic Johnson left the organization because he couldn’t navigate the dysfunction. And this week Johnson revealed he’d been told by DeMar DeRozan’s agent that his client wanted to play for the Lakers. But, Magic said, LeBron pushed for the far more expensive Westbrook.

“Magic knew what he was doing,” the source said. “I’m not sure who else there does.”


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