After entering the 2018-19 NBA season with high hopes, the Los Angeles Lakers will spend the back half of April in recently familiar territory: looking ahead to the NBA Draft Lottery.
Excitement and optimism were buzzing around Los Angeles after the Lakers managed to land LeBron James in free agency in July of 2018, pairing him with a promising young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and more.
Fast forward to today, where the Lakers are looking back on what went wrong. The Lakers crushed the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, seemingly establishing themselves as a serious threat in the Western Conference before the wheels fell off and their hopes to compete in the playoffs crashed and burned.
The issues that presented themselves this season can be traced all the way back to how the roster was built after the team signed James to a four-year deal. The Lakers let Julius Randle walk, allowing the youngster to have a terrific season with the New Orleans Pelicans. They also traded Ivica Zubac for Mike Muscala, who never got going as a Laker and quickly found himself out of the rotation.
Then there is the issue of all the trade talks. These talks were centered around the team’s pursuit of Anthony Davis, although it appears they had eyes elsewhere, too. But even with all the outside distractions, the players on the roster had their own issues to iron out. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, they held a players only meeting to try and straighten things out, with some players focused on James’ body language.
The meeting in Memphis was a retort of sorts. In what became an open forum, several players spoke up. Players focused on James’ inconsistent body language throughout the year. The four-time MVP copped to the critique, telling his teammates that, in essence, cutting out behavior like slumped shoulders and sideways glances has been something he has tried to work on his entire career.
There have been plenty of rumors surrounding James and his desire for the team to trade for Davis and the damage that was left from a deal not being completed. Although it didn’t make a difference on the court, the players being able to speak up and also have James acknowledge criticism and try to improve after it is an encouraging sign.
The Lakers have a lot of questions that need to be answered and it starts at the very top. After a plethora of injuries derailed what looked to be a promising season, will the front office change their approach in terms of roster construction? We know James will be on the roster next season, but will Ingram, Ball and Kuzma be there with him?
The news of this players only meeting shows that the players tried to overcome it all but came up well short. LeBron’s greatness will continue, but at the age of 34, the clock is ticking on Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. After a turbulent first season with James in the fold, this summer will determine if year two will be a smoother ride.
For the full article from Dave McMenamin on ESPN, click here.
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