When asked about how they see the upcoming campaign going, both Rob Pelinka and team owner/governor Jeanie Buss indicated that the Lakers are not done building their roster for the 2022-23 season.
At this time, the Lakers only have a maximum of two open roster spots that can be used to sign free agents to the veteran minimum. Call me crazy, but I doubt Pelinka and Buss have a shared vision of drastically improving the team through veteran minimum contracts given the bottom-of-the-barrel free agents remaining.
If I’m not crazy, then that means they’re working on a trade. Whether that involves Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, or all three — it sure seems like the Lakers wouldn’t be bringing back all of them if they had their choice. Now, whether that’s for Kyrie Irving, Buddy Hield, and/or Eric Gordon — all names they’ve reportedly been looking at — like the two heads of the team said, “this ain’t over yet”.
But while the Lakers and the rest of the NBA world wait for the Kevin Durant sweepstakes to end, something that has been heavily reported to be the necessary domino to fall and trigger any Kyrie Irving trade, they remain in limbo. While in that limbo, you’d imagine all of us Lakers fans could chill, maybe learn more about new free agents or rookies signed to the team, and overall just enjoy our summers.
Not a chance in hell.
These Lakers are still sports’ best soap opera. A realistic pause in negotiations for the exchange of two of the biggest names in basketball in Irving and Westbrook won’t stop that. Nothing can stop it. Because when you throw human firecrackers of NBA powerhouses such as LeBron James, Irving, Westbrook, and the purple-and-gold brand into one room, the explosions are never going to end.
Those explosions have come in a few forms lately, most notably when LeBron was talking to basically every single person in the Summer League gyms of Las Vegas… other than Westbrook. The two ignored each other after sitting together during the same league the season before.
After that came news that Westbrook and his agent Thad Foucher would be splitting. This was extremely noteworthy given the current state of the Lakers trying to trade Westbrook, but even more so given the fact that Foucher had represented Russ since the start of his career. But don’t worry everyone, things are at least all good between the Lakers’ “Big Three”, as Yahoo’s Chris Haynes noted when reporting a phone call between the trio that showed they were unified. Right! Sure!
We really should have seen this coming from the moment that LeBron signed his initial deal with the team in 2018. Almost immediately, rumors of the team possibly getting fellow Klutch Sports client Anthony Davis started. And then, once the Lakers acquired Davis in the summer of 2019, the team was suddenly in the running to get Kawhi Leonard. It seemed as if LeBron wasn’t done with the three-star model he succeeded with alongside Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland and with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami before that. The Lakers ultimately missed out on Kawhi Leonard, they settled for Dennis Schroder in the 2020 offseason, and then they foolishly thought they could possibly get someone like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal in the 2021 offseason.
But they still succeeded in getting a star-studded playmaker to place alongside LeBron and AD. Enter Russell Westbrook. LeBr–no… LeGM, after moving the Lakers’ chess pieces all over the board for three years had finally acquired his sought-after playmaking third star. Of course, he ignored the fact that a non-shooting point guard is a relic these days as well as the fact that there may be no one more unserious about winning than the guy who had been traded three times in three years at that point.
However, I refuse to shed crocodile tears for the Lakers. They knew what they were getting into with LeBron, and if anything, they’re just as much of drama queens as he is. Throughout all the championships, turmoil, gossip, and headlines have surrounded them. Whether it was the 1980s “Showtime” Lakers we all just saw chronicled in the HBO show “Winning Time”, the early 2000s Lakers including Kobe and Shaq that may have their back-stabbing spectacle on HBO’s network sooner rather than later, or even the early 2010s Lakers that had us all suffering from Dwightmares.
The two most melodramatic entities in NBA history may be LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
This was always going to be the case with these two parties joining forces. Gossip, tomfoolery, and arguing, all documented by the sport’s biggest media platforms. However, what really got this current pot boiling is the ingredient of the team’s key decision makers and their ineptitude. It started with the comical Magic Johnson era in the 2018-19 season, coming to a fitting end with his meme-worthy resignation. Now, it’s Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis. Two guys who seemingly have little respect around the league, with that lack of respect probably deserved when looking at their track records.
That type of ineptitude from the top may have stopped one championship in 2020 from being not two, not three, not four, not… you get it.
Personally… I’m so sick of it. I used to enjoy the movement of NBA offseasons. They’ve always been just as exciting if not more than the actual 82 games played during the regular season. But with all these childish games being played through gossip on The Athletic there and ESPN murmurs here as LeBron, Russ, and the Lakers all try and secure as much power as they can… I’ve now gained such an appreciation for the regular season.
I just want to watch Lakers basketball. And I want to know right now, without stupid reports of three grown men talking on the phone, whether that upcoming basketball will feature championship hopes with Kyrie or play-in hopes with Russ.
But, as always, championship hopes are never created easily with the Lakers or LeBron. It’s a price I and all fans of the two have to pay.
Let’s hope we can pay soon though.