The Los Angeles Lakers are taking things slow as they try to find a replacement for Luke Walton’s old job. Rob Pelinka has had interviews with a couple of candidates with more to come this week, but it was the subject of his time talking to Tyronn Lue that really should garner everyone’s attention.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first went into the reasons why Lue has the Lakers’ attention during a SportsCenter hit (emphasis mine):
“Ty Lue remains a significant factor in this Lakers coaching search. Having coached James and understanding how he wants to be coached, where you pick your spots with him and the input he’s going to have on a day-to-day basis is going to be a big part of having success.”
This is nothing we haven’t heard before. It was what Wojnarowski reported during an earlier appearance that legit made my jaw hit the floor (h/t Lakers Nation):
“[Lue’s relationship with James] is certainly important, but I think one of the messages Ty Lue wants to get through to Rob Pelinka is, ‘I’m not here to be LeBron James’ coach. I’m here to coach the Lakers. I’m going to coach the whole group.’ I think one of the misnomers of Ty Lue’s time in Cleveland was, listen, he challenged LeBron James. He was hard on LeBron James at times. He’s not there to just be his caddy, and I do think that commanded LeBron’s respect. And I think that will be a big part of the conversation [Lue and Pelinka] have.”
So let’s just get this straight... Maybe the top reason you would want to hire Tyronn Lue is because of the amount of respect LeBron James has for him. Finding a coach who can call James out but also get the most out of him on a day-to-day basis is exactly what the Lakers need, and yet here is Lue having to downplay his abilities in this respect because the Lakers are fearful of being judged for the perception that hiring Lue would mean they are catering to James.
I’m honestly asking this at this point: What the entire hell are we doing here? I mean, would the Lakers really pass on Lue — whom many consider the best option of the three candidates interviews thus far — because he’s somehow too close or too good at coaching James?
If Buss is this adamant about the Lakers being a “Buss-ran organization” (whatever the hell that means), then she should actually, you know, run some stuff.
It’s over a week since Magic Johnson stepped down, and we’ve still yet to hear a word from Buss or anyone else about the direction of the organization. She claims to want to empower the people she hires to run the basketball operations side of the business, but is apparently involved enough to the point that Lue apparently feels he has to distance himself from his most desirable ability.
For the sake of fairness, it’s also possible that Lue might want to clarify this so as not to appear to other potential landing spots as a flunky of James and his team, but this leaking on the heels of Buss’ weird Buss-centric preference doesn’t feel like a coincidence.
I’m also curious what exactly it was Buss was expecting when the Lakers got involved with James. Had they not been paying any attention at all when he spoke at length multiples times about player agency? Were they living under a rock as James and his team worked to position themselves as one of the most powerful groups in the sport? Did they think he would sign in Los Angeles and bow at the alter of the Lakers?
If “yes” is the answer to any of those questions, then the Lakers might be even more screwed than we think.
Lue’s resumé should speak for itself. He has multiple NBA Finals appearances and a championship trophy he can point to. He worked with James in order to make that happen. Whoever the Lakers hire will have to work with James, too, unless Buss is willing to trade James, as she was reportedly may have considered during the season.
Pelinka, to his credit, has been very deliberate in finding a head coach. There are a couple tweaks I would make to the process, but overall, no daunting mistake has been made yet. But all that process is pointless if his marching orders are to make sure the coach the Lakers hire isn’t too loyal to LeBron. Maybe that’s not what’s happening here, but if Lue feels the need to downplay his greatest qualification, it can’t be the greatest sign about what he’s hearing through back channels about the team’s preferences.