LeBron James is not happy with the Los Angeles Lakers’ inactivity at the trade deadline and is voicing his displeasure. Let’s see, how long has he been in L.A.? This is year four. This tracks. At his last two stops, Cleveland and Miami, year four is when things run off the rails. Apparently, things are so bad Bill Oram of The Athletic wrote that a source close to the team said it’s like “the early days of war.”
“The situation is tense enough that one source close to the Lakers likened it to the early days of a war.”
Before we go any further, this isn’t anything like the early days of war. This is a basketball team with a superstar that is disgruntled over the team he put together. War has real stakes and consequences.
When you have the opportunity to sign perhaps the greatest player of all time you make that move every single time. The move has paid off. The Lakers won the NBA championship in 2020, their 17th as a franchise.
But there is a tax you pay when you bring LeBron to your team, and the Lakers are paying it now. FS1’s Nick Wright, a noted LeBron stan, said this week on “First Things First” this is what you get with the LeBron James business, and the Lakers knew the deal.
“They got into the LeBron James business. Everyone knows what that comes with. … You gotta deal with the fact that he’s a little crazy at times. You got the good. This is the bad.”
"I can't believe how badly Lakers management is bungling this. They got into the LeBron James business. … You got the good — a title, AD — this is the bad. LeBron has held up his end. It's up to management to hold up theirs & they're not. It's embarrassing." — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/vObt3tgINp
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) February 24, 2022
Any LeBron team is in win-now mode. You must acquire the veteran players he likes even if it means you’re going to be deep in the luxury tax. What LeBron wants he gets. That seems to be the core of this issue and why LeBron is being passive-aggressive.
The Lakers appear to be putting their metaphorical foot down and not acquiescing to him and the demands of his agency, KLUTCH Sports.
The writing is on the wall, and Lakers governor Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka have to see the forest through the trees. LeBron is 37 and has one more year on his extension. He’ll be 38 at the end of his deal. While still a top player in the league, the juice might not be worth the squeeze.
The Lakers are devoid of draft capital and young talent. Why does that matter? When superstars age out and leave, that makes it really difficult for your team to compete.
From 2012-2019 the Lakers missed the playoffs every year and finished below .500. This was the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s prime when the injuries started occurring.
The Lakers mortgaged their future to bring in Anthony Davis. They won a title but most of the young talent and draft capital was sent out in the acquisition. They traded for Russell Westbrook this past offseason and sent out the remaining young talent and draft capital. Given the luxury tax implications, they were forced to sign cheaper options to fill out the roster and lost Alex Caruso as a result.
If LeBron leaves at the end of the 2022-23 they have Davis for one more year under contract. Maybe they can attract another big name free agent. But if not, what’s the plan?
A lot of good comes with signing LeBron James, and the Lakers have already experienced it. This is the bad.
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