The Los Angeles Lakers missed their mark once again, and because of this they will have to pay the consequences this season. According to Magic Johnson, Lebron is the main reason why Demar DeRozan is leading the league in points scored as a member of a Chicago Bulls team going nowhere fast and the Lakers are out of the playoffs completely.
Magic was making his media rounds this week and checked in on ESPN’s “Get Up” this week. Magic was asked what a fair criticism of LeBron would be in relation to the Lakers’ atrocious season thus far.
In responding, the five-time NBA champion and three-time MVP dropped a bombshell that has social media buzzing.
“The blame that he’s gotta take is the fact that DeRozan ended up in Chicago and not with the Lakers,” said Magic.
Magic says DeRozan wanted to come home to California, but LeBron James started his own negotiations with Russell Westbrook, thus ending any hope of DeRozan coming to L.A.
Johnson says the failure to secure DeRozan started a domino effect of poor results. Magic posited that if the Lakers had gotten DeRozan in free agency they’d only have traded Kyle Kuzma for Buddy Hield and kept Alex Caruso (even though Caruso wanted to stay in Los Angeles himself, but the Lakers didn’t want to pay him).
Ultimately, that would’ve been a team of Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and DeRozan, who is averaging a whopping 28 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field, a scoring average the Lakers desperately need with Anthony Davis and Bron battling injuries.
This led Magic to believe that if the Lakers would’ve made those moves instead of trading for Westbrook, they’d be a prime contender in the playoffs and on their way to another title run.
Magic Johnson is also the former president of basketball operations for the Lakers, and he said that DeRozan’s agent called him to express interest in DeRozan joining the Lakers, and Magic passed this info onto the team’s general manager, Rob Pelinka.
In the end, that transaction never occurred, and the Lakers acquired Westbrook from the Wizards. LeBron was determined to make that happen, so the immediate blame goes to LeBron for that decision.
Westbrook is averaging 18 points per game on 44 percent shooting and a horrible 29 percent shooting from three-point range, with 3.8 turnovers per game (sixth highest in the league).
Things haven’t been well for him in Los Angeles, and he was nearly traded at the deadline. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Lakers and Westbrook could have mutual interest in finding him a new team this summer. Getting Westbrook to a new team may prove challenging because of his erratic play and hefty contract.
Westbrook is due $47 million next year, and not many teams are willing to take on that contract, especially if the Lakers are going to be asking for valuable assets. The reality of the situation is that the Lakers might even have to give up a pick to entice a team into trading for that contract.
When looking at the decision to go with Westbrook over DeRozan, it is a team-altering decision that most likely held the Lakers back. LeBron denied the Lakers the chance of having a MVP-caliber player alongside two of basketball’s greatest players, and the possibility of having some quality role players alongside them, which is another area the Lakers are lacking in.
Looking at these factors, it’s safe to say with those changes the Lakers would have a better record than 31-47 and on the outside of the play-in tournament looking in.
A Lakers team with DeRozan instead of Westbrook is probably a top-five team in the Western Conference, and Lakers coach Frank Vogel probably wouldn’t be on the verge of getting fired at the end of the season.
Though Vogel, who led the Lakers to a bubble championship in 2020, has put some questionable lineups on the floor, he only has so much to work with while trying to combat age, injuries, and inconsistency. LeBron has been playing some amazing basketball this seasojn, but that still isn’t enough to save Vogel, who’s been on the hot seat since their embarrassing first-round playoff exit last year.
According to multiple sources, he’s coaching his last few games with the Lakers, who will more than likely miss the play-in. Reports say the Lakers organization has already commenced a new coaching search, with coaches like Doc Rivers, and Quin Snyder at the forefront of their wish list.
The hype for the Lakers at the beginning of the season was tremendous, and they fell short of their expectations all across the board, leading to acrimony among the fans, the media, and their own front office.
The Lakers carry the highest standard of basketball and success in the NBA, and this has been flat-out embarrassing for them. Missing out on DeRozan is just another blunder that’s stacked on top of many others for this organization. We will be sure to see a lot of moves in the offseason, and the Lakers will try their best to right their wrongs next season for a good replacement for Westbrook.