All the focus right now is on who (if anyone) will replace Magic Johnson and Luke Walton, but whoever does will have to learn from the mistakes their predecessors made. For whoever takes over the front office, those lessons may include maybe not leaking each step of an ugly and fruitless trade negotiation for Anthony Davis that involves literally every player on your roster not named LeBron James.
At exit interviews, various Lakers admitted that those rumors took a toll on the team, and it’s easy to see how.
“It was annoying. Nowadays everything is on social media,” Josh Hart said to reporters last week. “I think was amplified obviously because we’re in L.A., we got Bron, whatever AD did, so everything was amplified. But at the end of the day we tried to focus on controlling what we could control, and I think we did that to the best of our abilities.
“The media made it annoying, social media made it annoying.”
It makes sense that the whole saga was annoying, but despite all the noise, Hart then oddly added that everyone was somehow on the same page.
“But at the end of the day, no one was frustrated with each other. No frustration with us and the front office. We were all a collective unit,” Hart said.
Josh: Blink twice if you’re being held hostage. If you think that’s too obvious, cough.
Kyle Kuzma was asked a similar line of questions and, instead of focusing on how annoying and pervasive the big, bad media is, he said it’s on the Lakers and players around the league to deal with trade rumors as professionals.
“You’re going to have ups and downs, things are going to happen,” Kuzma said. “It’s all about how locked in you guys are together. Obviously you know it’s going to happen. Trade deadline, trade talks are going to happen. For the first time in our life, as young players... (It was) the first time realizing that basketball is a business.”
He then brought up Magic Johnson’s now infamous comments that the media shouldn’t treat the Lakers “like babies,” and actually agreed with the sentiment.
“For us, our whole life as young players, we’ve been strictly ‘have fun, enjoy the game,’ and all this and all that. But then you get to the NBA, and part of — going back to what Magic said — growing up, you have to realize this is a business. (People) can always say control what you can control, but without going through something first, you can’t really listen to other people’s logic behind things,” Kuzma said.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope concurred with Kuzma’s point that guys experiencing trade rumors like this for the first time would always make an impact on their outlook of playing in the NBA as a whole.
”It affected it a lot. Lots of trade talk was there,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Everybody was kind of worried about that. Especially the guys that haven’t been through it, they was worried where they was going to end up, how they was going to do it. How it was going to mentally affect them. It affected the locker room a lot.”
Tyson Chandler said this wasn’t necessarily unique, though, but the young guys will at least know how to deal with it now.
“Every situation I’ve been in, I’ve seen it (trade rumors) handled so many different ways. I’ve seen it handled privately, where general managers just talk to guys but then it ends up coming to the locker room anyway,” Chandler explained. “I’ve seen where it was just silent, nobody said nothing and nobody knew anything and then guys were still on edge the closer it gets to the deadline.
“This year, it was very public. It was all over the place. So when it comes to trades, when it comes to that time of the year, I don’t even know if there is a right way to go about it, but again, young players have to go through it, have to experience it, and once you go through it you just throw it in the back seat.”
(It’s worth pointing out that while Caldwell-Pope and Chandler talked about the impact trade rumors had on the young guys that they — the young core — pretty thoroughly were outplaying their veteran counterparts during the time where rumors were flying.)
While everyone who agreed that it’s eventually on the players to learn how to deal with trade rumors is right, the Lakers also have to learn from how awfully they handled negotiations with New Orleans. Yes, Anthony Davis is a tremendous player and would immediately made the Lakers legitimate contenders (depending on who is sent out for him, obviously), but their desperation was as harmful as it was unbecoming.
At some point, they’ll have to figure out where all the leaks are coming from and find a way to keep some of that information in-house until it suits them for it to be made public. The way they have operated makes my life easier given all the content it generates, but in terms of how an organization should run, it’s a legitimate hindrance to have everything out there, and that’s the way it’s been since Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were let go. Those two certainly had their flaws as executives, but they knew how to play things close to the vest, and if the front office has thought these leaks are strategic, or helping in any way, they should probably reevaluate that approach.
It’s good that they are honest about how it affected them in ways that everyone can see, and now they just have to learn from it. And optimistically speaking, if the Lakers do learn from their negotiation mistakes and players figure out ways to better deal with rumors that do make their way to the pubic, that’s just one more thing that can’t derail a crucial season for the organization. That’s a good thing, as long as everyone takes the right lessons from this.