As the Los Angeles Lakers season crumbled into failure, the blame went to many parties. But one event, in particular, was discussed as the turning point of the season.
The Lakers got involved in very public negotiations for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis who requested a trade from his team. As the negotiations unfolded, it became clear that the Pelicans did not want to give in to Davis’ demands and trade him to LA, but that did not stop leaks about every player being available for the generational talent.
As it turns out, Davis was not the only blockbuster addition that the Lakers were after. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the team inquired about then-Wolves star Jimmy Butler, in part because of LeBron James’ lack of comfort with the young core:
L.A., sources said, was one of several teams to inquire about Butler before the swingman was traded to Philadelphia, for instance.
One team source told ESPN that they didn’t feel as though James fully engaged with the younger teammates prior to the trade deadline.
Butler was traded to the 76ers in November, so the Lakers were already trying to make desperate moves to make up for their lack of impact signings beyond LeBron in the early parts of the season. The forward’s desire to play in LA has been under question, with the Lakers originally listed as one of his preferred destinations but reports indicating that he did not want to play alongside LeBron.
Despite the trade not occurring, the talks do hold significance. For one, Butler is a free agent in July and could be on the move from a crowded Philadelphia starting lineup. Secondly, despite LeBron’s mostly positive comments about the young core in public, his inability to gel with them from the start could eventually lead to the end of their short tenures in Los Angeles.
Of course, things change quickly in the NBA. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, especially, got better and grew more comfortable playing alongside James as the season went along. That could extend their leash just enough to keep them in purple and gold for a while longer. But the Lakers have made their star-chasing intentions clear and they would not hesitate to find an upgrade in the short term if they deem it fit.