When the Los Angeles Lakers failed to trade for Anthony Davis at the 2019 NBA trade deadline, it was clear that chemistry and mistrust would be an issue for the rest of the year. In an attempt to counteract that, Lakers president Magic Johnson met with the team prior to a game to hash out any concerns.
As it turns out, that meeting did not exactly have the effect that Johnson expected, even before he was investigated for tampering once again.
Following via Bill Oram of The Athletic:
Once the trade deadline was over and Davis remained in New Orleans, the trust issues that sprung up as a result of the very public talks remained. Johnson joined the team two days after the Feb. 7 deadline in Philadelphia, but his message, delivered 30 minutes before tipoff, seemed to be poorly received. Sources described players rolling their eyes at Johnson. They had gone days without hearing from the front office and the message from management now was, essentially, that they needed to toughen up. The Lakers lost in Philly that night, and again in Atlanta against the lowly Hawks.
Johnson, who was described by Oram’s sources as an “absentee executive” in the article, effectively gave the same message publicly. It amounted to “You weren’t traded so man up and play for your team.”
In the Lakers’ ideal world, players would not be affected by those rumors and would be able to perform at a high level. But of course, that’s not likely. One cannot expect professionals to have the same level of dedication when it is painfully obvious their organization wants to replace them.
The Lakers were already sliding due to injuries by the time the trade deadline happened. But the publicity of those negotiations as well as the front office’s seemingly consistent sleaziness with their own players (an issue that has been raised numerous times recently), effectively ended all chances of finding any success in the stretch run of the season.