This is fine. Everything’s fine.
The Los Angeles Lakers are dropping like flies to injury. They’ve lost seven of eight games. Julius Randle has Lakers Twitter on the brink of explosion after every game and practice. Tyler Ennis and Corey Brewer are getting minutes… AT THE SAME DAMN TIME.
In lieu of practice, Luke Walton and the players held a late Festivus celebration and aired the grievances that arise from stretches like this one, per multiple reports. Topics of the meeting included issues both on-court and in the “business of the organization.”
No one shared any specifics of the team meeting, but one would hope it featured some talk about the allocation of minutes, whether that’s regarding some guys playing too much (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball), too little (Randle) or at all (Andrew Bogut, Ennis, Brewer).
The “business of the organization” bit is especially interesting.
I wouldn’t blame the Lakers’ young core for feeling as if they’ve done enough to distance themselves from trade rumors if not altogether, enough that it doesn’t hang over each and every play they make on the court.
Yes, LeBron James, Paul George or whichever superstar the Lakers could potentially land this summer is exciting and has been the top priority of the Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka administration. But the attempts to land those guys should not come at the sacrifice of the bright future the Lakers have built for themselves.
(This is starting to sound familiar, isn’t it?)
The best case scenario here — and really, the most successful way elite teams are built in today’s NBA — is that Ball, Ingram, Randle, Kuzma, Josh Hart and whoever else develop alongside whichever superstar(s) the Lakers land.
Golden State drafted Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, then signed Andre Iguodala to make up their first death lineup and earn them a couple trips to finals. Then, when Kevin Durant became available, the choice was easy for him. He goes to Golden State, taking the place of Barnes, and this Warriors team is one of the greatest ever.
This same strategy has been employed by the vast majority of teams that make their way from playoff contention to legitimate chances at competing for titles.
Putting all their eggs in chasing superstars and ignoring the development of key pieces of the one of the league’s most exciting young groups is a phenomenal way to set the organization back even if they are successful in landing one of the aforementioned stars.
All that is a conversation for this summer, but for right now, the Lakers are best off refocusing on this season not just because it’s the right thing to do with the team they currently have, but because it’s the best way to generate the kinds of positive headlines they can show to these free agents this summer.
Wins are going to convince superstars that the organization is making strides forward, not some stupid attempts to kiss the ring of LeBron’s agent in the form of allowing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to take whichever shots he likes.
Playing the team’s best players will lead to those wins, even if the front office has prematurely decided for whatever reasons that they might not be in the team’s future plans.
We’ll see if anything comes of this team meeting, but frankly, it starts with the front office and coaching staff. It’s their jobs to put guys in position to succeed. They haven’t thus far.