With the season over for 28 NBA teams and a week of no games before the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers face off tonight in the NBA Finals, there’s been plenty of rumors and speculation about how the summer will change the landscape of the league. One key “free agent” who may switch franchises this summer ended his playing days over 40 years ago but still has a track record that any NBA front office would covet.
Jerry West, one of the most decorated players and executives in NBA history, has been adding to his legacy as an adviser to Warriors owner Joe Lacob and has helped build that team into one of the greatest in NBA history. His contract with the team will expire after this season, however, and there are rumors that the 79-year-old will be courted by other teams who hope to add his wisdom and expertise to their front offices.
ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the Clippers are trying to bring West aboard, and Lacob told Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News last week that the Dubs “would love (West) back and we’ve made that known.”
West’s first choice, however, would appear to be returning home to the purple and gold. The 79-year-old spent his entire playing career with the Lakers before serving as the team’s general manager for twenty years. West is credited with building the Showtime Lakers who won five titles in the 1980s and later acquired Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the summer of 1996, leading to three more championships. He’s still an impactful figure in his current role, as his phone call with Kevin Durant during the latter’s free agency last summer is often cited as a reason why Durant signed with the Warriors.
After the Lakers revamped their front office in February, conflicting rumors have spread about the mutual interest (or lack thereof) in one final reunion between West and the Lakers. Finally, the man himself spoke about it at length during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday (h/t Mark Medina of the SoCal News Group):
“It’s a different situation now, a different time. Obviously I wish everyone well. My son works there. I’m very proud that he works there. Sometimes I thought in my life that might be something that I can revisit, or they would want me to revisit. But that didn’t happen. At times, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed. But it kind of sent me a message. They wanted to go elsewhere, which is fine. But to say I wouldn’t have liked to end my career there, that wouldn’t necessarily be true either.”
Wow. That seems to confirm a report from Medina’s colleague Bill Oram that West wanted to rejoin the Lakers “more than anything” before last winter’s front office shakeup. From a pure basketball standpoint, rehiring West makes almost too much sense, and Lakers fans haven’t forgotten his incredible contributions to the franchise.
There are, however, some good reasons why the Lakers wouldn’t want West back, whether it be past rumored conflict between West and current Lakers owner Jeannie Buss or the desire for new team president Magic Johnson (who played during West’s GM tenure) and GM Rob Pelinka to develop their own reputation around the league.
You can read Medina’s full transcript here.