A summary of Friday’s Lakers leaks

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 12: LeBron James #6 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench in the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on February 12, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

People within the Los Angeles Lakers’ organization just couldn’t help themselves. They couldn’t wait until the official end of the season before they started getting in the ears of whatever reporter would listen. The result has been a flurry of articles recapping one of (if not the most) dissapointing Lakers seasons you’ll ever see. Of course, these articles include leaks from plenty of anonymous sources, as different people within the organization (even including players) try and get their side of the story out there in what appears to be an effort of deflecting blame.

The most recent articles of this nature include one from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne ($$$) as well as a joint effort from L.A. Times’ Dan Woike and Broderick (“B.A.”) Turner.

Both articles do a good job of recapping the season in between the anonymous sources’ words, however, I think we’ve all rehashed what we’ve seen from this season enough. To save everyone some time, I’ve gone ahead and summarized those reports and sources from within (and outside of) the team.

Jeanie Buss and the Lakers are cheap

No, Ramona Shelburne does not explicitly say this in her reporting, but that’s my interpretation of the situation. It would also be the interpretation of anyone with half a brain when reading the part of the report about Mike Penberthy’s raise and increased role in the summer prior to the season, and how that created “a domino effect” according to Shelburne that caused assistant coach candidate Scott Brooks to end up on Chauncey Billups’ Trail Blazers staff.

The Lakers had tried to hire his former head coach Scott Brooks as an assistant coach. But a spot on the front of the bench evaporated when Jason Kidd tried to hire Mike Penberthy — who works closely with Davis — to join his new staff with the Dallas Mavericks. In response, the Lakers offered Penberthy a spot on Vogel’s bench and a raise, which created a domino effect. The spot and money for Brooks — a potential Westbrook ally — was gone.

It also appears that Davis’ closeness to Penberthy had an effect on the decisions that led to Brooks — a coach that has led Westbrook before with much higher success than what Vogel has had — taking up a job in Portland.

If you’re reading this, I also probably don’t need to bring up the fact that the team refused to steep lower into the luxury tax by signing Alex Caruso, a move they decided against that severely hurt their perimeter defense all season. Just another decision made in the interest of saving money that only further hurt the basketball product put on the floor this season.

There was a communication issue between Westbrook and different parties on the team/in the organization

I wrote more about this wrinkle here if you’d like to read more about it.

Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis have job security this summer

This has been alluded to in the past week (as well as earlier in the season), but yeah. If you were expecting any repercussions towards anyone in this front office, it doesn’t appear that that will happen according to Shelburne.

The front office, led by president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and special adviser Kurt Rambis, is expected to remain in power, sources said.

And why would they face any repercussions for this season?! LeBron and Davis wanted to trade for Westbrook! Blame them!

Also blame them for signing the likes of Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, and the other veteran minimum guys! A group of individuals that were basically unplayable or will be retired this season due to severe and obvious signs of being washed up!

(Editor’s Note: There’s a lot of sarcasm in those two mini paragraphs above)

Would the Lakers consider using the waive-and-stretch provision on Russell Westbrook’s contract?

It’s been reported recently that the Lakers are going to have “limited” options this offseason to move off of Russell Westbrook outside another visit to the deal involving the Rockets’ John Wall that was heavily discussed at this year’s deadline. Rob Pelinka and the organization decided against it due to the fact that the Rockets were requiring the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick (the only first-round pick the Lakers could trade) in addition to Westbrook coming over.

The Lakers may be more likely to stomach that deal this summer given they’ll then also have their 2029 first-round pick to work with, however, if they don’t want to include draft capital to move off of Westbrook again, could they end up waiving-and-stretching the $47 million that they will owe him for the 2022-23 season?

Shelburne said the following regarding about the Lakers’ inclination to maybe do that:

Sources said they are similarly disinclined to tie up their salary cap in the future via a waive-and-stretch provision after finally completing the waive-and-stretch deal for Luol Deng this season ($5 million of the Lakers’ cap in 2021-22 was dead money from Deng’s deal).

Shelburne also notes that a source close to Westbrook expressed pessimism at the idea of Westbrook accepting a buyout, but let’s be real about that anyways, the Lakers are far too cheap to fork over $47 million to correct the massive mistake they made.

“Disinclined” doesn’t mean that the Lakers wouldn’t do it if there’s not an attractive enough trade option, but still, this paints a far more negative picture of the option than what NBA insider Marc Stein painted earlier this week when he said the organization hadn’t ruled it out.

Russell Westbrook has had his hands “thoroughly checked with a specialist”

Westbrook has botched lay-up after lay-up, dunk after dunk this season, with some even wondering if it was a function of a hand issue.

Shelburne reported the following that revealed Westbrook has actually sought out opinions on his hands which have been injured in the past, although the sources described it as rudimentiary as getting work done in other places on his body.

People on the team and around the league began to wonder if something was wrong with his hands or eyes. It’s not often a player makes just 65% of his dunks in a season.

Sources close to Westbrook insist he has had his hands thoroughly checked by a specialist and that the treatment he receives regularly is no different than the regular treatment he does on his ankles and knees.

I don’t have much else to say about this one other than it’s pretty hilarious “people on the team” thought he sucked so much that they said “Is there something wrong with his eyes?”

People inside and outside of the Lakers also noticed how bad and toxic they were

The L.A. Times article features a few pretty funny quotes from anonymous sources. “One opposing player” said “What happened? They stink” about the Lakers while a “veteran” on the Lakers said “This season is b—” according to the L.A. Times. That is a bit of a confusing way to write out whatever curse word that is, but if I was a betting man… I’d wager that that word is “bullshit”.

There are also plenty of funny opinions from unnamed scouts outside of the Lakers, including the following:

  • Certain scouts believed Kendrick Nunn would be the Lakers’ best perimeter defender. I’d have to imagine that opinion is more a reflection of how down those scouts were on the team’s perimeter defense as a whole instead of a complimentary opinion towards Nunn himself.
  • Scouts would have a nice laugh about how frequently the Lakers’ opponents would have four or even sometimes five players that those scouts all liked more than the four or five players the Lakers had on the floor.
  • Just as obvious it was to us fans and bloggers watching the team, it was apparently just as “striking” to scouts and executives how much better the Lakers looked with youth and athleticism on the floor in the form of Stanley Johnson, Wenyen Gabriel, and others.
  • Opposing scouts said they saw Lakers players “ignoring their coaches’ instructions” during games.

To translate the above four bullet points, scouts and other individuals outside of the Lakers’ organization noticed how bad they were, and it was hilarious to them.

People within the team wondered if not re-signing Jared Dudley was a mistake

It’s honestly starting to seem like a huge upset that Dudley was not re-signed back to the Lakers to play the player-coach, orchestrator of vibes role that he played in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

Woike and Turner reported the following, as it appears that some within the organization wondered if he could have helped with the terrible vibes of this team:

As it became increasingly obvious that Westbrook‘s talents didn’t mesh on a roster with James, some Lakers staffers wondered if the team had made a critical mistake by not re-signing Dudley to serve as a locker-room buffer between stars while aiding in Westbrook’s integration.

Some players didn’t like LeBron James’ bad body language during games

If you only watched a handful of Lakers’ games this season where LeBron was healthy enough to be on the court, you would have noticed a lot of hands in the air, head-shaking, and overall disgust from LeBron while watching the ball go in the hoop when the Lakers were on defense.

This is nothing new from LeBron, as it even happened at times during the regular season of the 2019-20 championship year. However, this may be the first time that it has been reported that it bothered players, as Woike and Turner reported the following:

Midway through the season, players began to notice James’ body language after poor Westbrook play, an on-court sign of recognition that his and the Lakers’ plan wasn’t going to work. Some Lakers players were bothered by how regularly James’ shoulders would slump and how his head would hang after botched opportunities to score or defend.

Frank Vogel joked about the Lakers’ poor perimeter defense privately

First off, did you know the Lakers apparently led the league in blocks at one point? They don’t now, but they’re still pretty high in the rankings of blocks per game (7th in the league) when considering how bad their defense is.

However, it appears Vogel is #woke on this statistic, as Woike and Turner reported this funny part of their mostly dramatic article.

Privately, Vogel joked about the Lakers leading the NBA in blocked shots — not because of their interior defense but because of the frequency opposing guards would get into the paint to challenge the Lakers’ frontcourt.

A Lakers staffer emphasized that Vogel needed to adjust more this season

I, as well as many others, took a look at the roster before the season began and assumed there would be a regression on defense but that there’d be a strong improvement on offense. The first part happened, but the second part did not. It appears that a certain anonymous staffer shares the opinions of many who cover the team, that the team had a head coach for the job of creating this offense that wouldn’t be able to adjust enough to do so efficiently.

Woike and Turner reported the following:

“We don’t have a great offensive team, but we are more offense than we are defense, and Frank has to adjust to that,” one Lakers staffer said. “You got to live with the fact that your defense isn’t going to be top three. And you hope it’s top 20, and then your offense is good enough to move it. But that’s the hard part.”

So yeah, there was a lot of meat on the bones of these two articles. Will that be the end of the Lakers’ leaks that are only done to anonymously cast blame to different parties?

Probably not, since this organization is a joke!

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