The Los Angeles Lakers are a brand name. Few teams have the appeal and reach worldwide as the Lakers do. Every year Forbes releases their “World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams” rankings and the Lakers are consistently in the top 10. Currently, they have a valuation of $4.6 billion. All of this would make you believe that this organization would not spare any expense to help this team capture another world championship. Well, you would be wrong. First, it starts with Alex Caruso. The elite defender who become a fan favorite wanted to stay with the Purple and Gold and reportedly was willing to take less. The Lakers however did not even get close to matching the Chicago Bulls’ offer. The Lakers were worried about the luxury tax implications and decided to let a valuable asset walk without anything in return. Now, it has come to light that the Lakers were unable to sign former head coach Scott Brooks to an assistant deal because they were outbid by the Portland Trail Blazers for the same role on their staff, according to Marc Stein in his latest column on his substack:
I was reminded Tuesday night — and not for the first time this season — that the Lakers were outbid by Portland in the pursuit of Scott Brooks as an assistant coach to Vogel. Given the Lakers’ ample difficulties in helping Westbrook establish a role, which were predicted from the jump, one inevitably wonders how much Brooks’ presence could have helped, given his unique status as a former head coach who forged a strong connection with the headstrong Westbrook in two different cities (Oklahoma City and Washington).
Not only have the Lakers balked at ponying up extra money to improve the team, they’ve done so in moves that seemingly go against what Frank Vogel wants. There might not have been a bigger fan of the defensively-gifted Caruso and, apparently, Scott Brooks was another case of this as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the following in an episode of his podcast, “The Woj Pod” (h/t Harrison Faigen and Silver Screen & Roll):
“They know that the brain power in the room is just better with Frank Vogel and David Fizdale. They don’t have as experienced a staff as they could have. They wanted to have a staff with Scott Brooks and David Fizdale, but Portland offered a little more money to go be the top assistant there, Fiz already had the top assistant job (with the Lakers), and so financially it kind of drops down. And I think it might be different if you had another former head coach on the bench. And so all those are factors.”
Could Brooks be the difference the Lakers need in this Russell Westbrook dilemma? We will never know. Are the Lakers that cheap that they would allow a small market team like the Blazers outbid them? The fact that you even have to ask that question is laughable. The expectation for the Lakers is to compete for championships and anything less is unacceptable. Brooks on the coaching staff would have given Frank Vogel someone who has gotten the most out of the former MVP. Now, we are headed towards an ugly divorce and the Lakers might not even make it to the dance.
We can’t pretend to know the inner workings of this organization and give prudent financial advice. What we do know is this championship window with LeBron James and Anthony Davis is closing. In a year where James is still playing at an elite level, the Lakers decided having the likes of Caruso or Brooks was not worth the cost. As this year slips away, let’s hope the Lakers are willing to open up their pockets next season.