LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are going on three full weeks since the NBA trade deadline passed. The team’s inconsistency — as evidenced by them one night beating the Houston Rockets and only couple days later getting blown out by the New Orleans Pelicans — could point to the lasting effects of such a public negotiation process for Anthony Davis.
In a column that looked at how the blame pie gets sliced up as the team tries to get back on track, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argued that James deserves a hearty helping — with a little help from an executive who didn’t mince words:
“He killed the [Lakers’] chemistry,” one NBA executive said. “He shouldn’t have been so public about it. Even during the All-Star draft, he laughed about [wanting Davis to be his teammate].”
So before we get too far into further speculation about what lingering effect the trade deadline might still have on this team, can we really quickly note how lame this is? We’re really holding it against LeBron that he laughed? The horror! The horror!
Still, I agree with the larger point that James’ agent (Rich Paul, in case you live under Patrick Star’s rock) wreaked havoc by going public with that trade demand, and all the subsequent leaks about preferred destination, and perhaps did so with a little nudge from James. That’s fine. But come on. Laughing is the line in the sand here?
Anyway, back to the larger point as to whether the Lakers might find themselves beyond the point of no return, and how much of that concern is a reflection on James as a teammate and leader. There just isn’t much James can do. He can try to rally the troops with some kind of win-through-the-noise speech, but even that would ring hollow as, 1) his camp is responsible for a lot of the noise and, 2) this summer we all know they’ll likely be on the trade block once again as the team tries to find a second star for James.
He could lead by example, but it’s still fairly clear he isn’t 100 percent physically and hasn’t really tried on defense in half a decade or so. Watch him next time he attempts to shake anyone laterally on offense, even. Nothing is happening. He was isolated on the wing against noted all-pro defender Jahlil Okafor Saturday and hardly challenged him.
Here’s the play in question:
Something about that just doesn’t quite scream playoff intensity.
It’s also getting to the point where the Lakers kind of have to try to put the deadline behind them. Sure, it probably really sucked to have a teammate — and probably someone you’ve wanted to have as a teammate your entire life — try to trade you. Seeing your name in endless rumors and speculation has to be taxing. But we’re also nearing a month since the deadline. At some point, the Lakers can’t keep using this as an excuse or explanation for their failures, especially if they want any chance at playing in the postseason.
It might just be that there are no answers here. In fact, I’d probably argue no single act will save this Lakers season. It’s going to take a concerted effort from James, the front office, Luke Walton, the medical staff and everyone whose name came up in trade speculation to turn things around.
Just to be safe, though, LeBron should really avoid laughter at all costs. Wouldn’t want to set off this executive again.