When LeBron James committed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, much was made about the reported heart-to-heart he had with team president Magic Johnson, in which they planned the way forward for an organization fighting to get back to the postseason if James were to sign aboard.
However, according to Dave McNenamin of ESPN, Anthony Davis (whom the Lakers desperately pursued at the trade deadline) wasn’t on their radar yet at that point:
A source familiar with the three-hour meeting James had at his home with Johnson on the eve of his free-agency decision told ESPN that Davis’ name never came up when the two discussed future plans. But when the Lakers signed Rondo, Stephenson, Beasley, et al. to one-year contracts after George stuck with the Thunder, the message was clear: L.A. was hell-bent on pairing LeBron with a max-level free agent in the summer of 2019 -- with the possibility to upgrade the roster via a trade even before that.
Basically, the plan seemed to be to see what the young core could do this season in a sort of year-long audition, and then recalculate the path forward once the front office and James figured out who was capable of what. The problem is: Those signings McMenamin listed were such poor fits, and the injuries took such a toll, that the Lakers are heading into this summer still in the dark about those players’ potential to a large extent still.
Combine all that with the damage the Lakers’ pursuit of Davis had on the locker room and the front office are going to have to make some really difficult decisions with not nearly enough information to feel comfortable about, well, really anything.
One fortunate outcome of the strategy Magic and LeBron reportedly agreed on (fart noises notwithstanding) is that those players the Lakers signed in free agency came over on one-year deals, so any damage their failings might have is isolated to just this season (maybe).
If the Lakers can’t add a second star this summer, or have to commit to a lower-tier one, it’ll be interesting to see whether they commit to non-superstar free agents so as to actually start building organizational culture. However, that does come with risk, depending on the types of deals they hand out.
The Lakers have a handful of games and a postseason to watch before they have to make the aforementioned difficult decisions, but when they do, there’s quite a bit at stake for all involved. At least everyone knew this was the plan, and now that it didn’t work, they at least have a reset button ready to go.