The Los Angeles Lakers , a franchise that is a paragon for excellence, a crown jewel organization not only in the NBA but around the world is now viewed as a drama-filled laughing stock. This season , the Lakers have fallen flat on their collective faces, hovering at or below .500 for most of the season. The acquisition of Russell Westbrook, who anyone with basketball brain 1 was questionable at best, has been, for a variety of reasons, been an abject failure. Anthony Davis has been playing with the intensity of a drugged up poodle and LeBron James is scoring at a high clip at 29.3 a night, but it is not translating to impact on the court and ultimately wins on the books.
As the Lakers seem more on a collision course with the play-in tournament or the draft lottery than a NBA title , the question has been raised as to what is the origin of their issues. The narrative initially, was blame Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel for everything , with a side of Anthony Davis sprinkled in. However when Russell Westbrook was absent from the lineup and the Lakers still lost to Anfernee Simons, Jusef Nurkic and a bunch of D-leaguers, the all Russ’s fault all the time narrative took a serious hit.
Next up on the “reasons the Lakers suck” list is Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, who has been rapidly moving up the blame list, especially as the NBA trade deadline came and went without the Lakers making any moves ( which has become a point of contention between Pelinka and LeBron James).
Lebron James himself is not free from blame, as the perception is , and Carmelo Anthony said it directly, that he had a major hand in the construction of this highly flawed roster. The Lakers had a young core that was trending up prior to Lebron’s arrival and he and his agent colluded with Anthony Davis to get him to openly pout and quit his way out of New Orleans and gutted their team to do so. The trade did net the Lakers a title in Orlando bubble but left them little in the way of draft capital or other assets to further improve the team.
Now that the key players have been identified who is ultimately at fault for what is befallen the Lakers? Is it Russell Westbrook and his up-and-down play? Anthony Davis with his lack of consistent availability? While these, and the age and the lack of defense and shooting are all contributing factors to the Lakers stinking up the house that KObe built, the real blame must be laid at the feet of the architects of the this roster, Lebron James and Rob Pelinka. The organization should be give the lion’s share of the blame because the Lakers forgot who they were. No disrespect to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but when LeBron announced that he was returning the Cavs, there was the perception they were just happy that he once again decided to grace their organization with his presence. LeBron undoubtedly was cognizant of that and used his leverage to ultimately get the collection of players he wanted. He also not so subtly let it be known his disdain and lack of respect for then head coach David Blatt and that led to Blatt being let go in his second year with the Cavs, despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference at the time of his firing, for LeBron-approved coach Tyronn Lue.
The Lakers are franchise that is synonymous with winning and world titles and because of that they did not have to fall down at the feet of LeBron and give him the complete run of the place as the Cavaliers did. It is the Lakers themselves that should bear the brunt of the responsibility for their current state, because it was they who decided to capitulate to the whims of the LeBron James camp. The Lakers allowed themselves to get swept up in the LeBron James maelstrom and they have no one to blame but themselves. The Lakers should have taken the Pat Riley/Miami Heat approach in dealing with the LeBron James machine. When LeBron was in Miami he tried his antics to assert control, for example, to get Eric Spoelstra fired and Pat Riley let he and his crew know in no uncertain terms that Riley was the captain of the ship and Spo was going to be the coach. It should also not go without notice that it was during this time that Lebron enjoyed his greatest team and individual success.
As the Lakers survey their current and post LeBron environment, it will likely be several seasons of being in the wilderness of the draft lottery and it is ultimately their own doing.