Editor’s Note: Dave McMenamin of ESPN caused a bit of a stir when he went on “The Sedano Show” and said that he thought the trust LeBron James had in the Lakers had “been damaged” by Magic Johnson resigning on the final night of the regular season. Given how plugged in McMenamin has typically been with James’ camp and the Lakers, we ran the below story on this page about his comments.
Here is a transcript of what he said.
“I offered my perspective that there is some trust that needs to be repaired between the Lakers and LeBron. That’s just applying logic, right? Every report that we’ve heard, LeBron’s words included, last summer, was ‘I came to the Lakers in large part due to the relationship I have with Magic Johnson, and the kinship I feel, and the shared vision we have to get this team back to the mountaintop.’
“Obviously, we also know that a couple of weeks ago Magic Johnson shocked not only the basketball world, but LeBron James himself by resigning before informing him that he was stepping away from the team. That is something that is an unprecedented situation that in any realm or profession would need to be accounted for with anybody who worked for that organization.
“LeBron today went on Instagram and had the TV in the background showing ‘First Take’ talking about our radio hit yesterday, and he said it’s not true that there are any trust issues. That’s the best news that the Lakers have heard in eons. If there are zero trust issues between LeBron and the Lakers then that’s fantastic. That means that they have him 100 percent and they’re getting his full support in this front office that includes Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis. It means they’re getting full support about whatever plan they have in place thus far to fill in their head coach, and then their free agency pursuit.
“The only way this thing gets turned around from this last year is if everybody is on the same page, and if that is the case over the last couple weeks, and that whatever shock LeBron felt from Magic’s resignation has worn off, and everybody is on the same page, then that’s great to hear because it means that this organization has a chance to salvage all the disappointment by putting together a really good summer this offseason to get things going for the 2019-2020 (season).”
At Silver Screen and Roll, we want to keep our audience as informed as possible by updating with increased information on stories like this when it becomes relevant.
Anthony’s original story on McMenamin’s comments follows below.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been an unmitigated disaster since the end of this last season. Magic Johnson shocked everyone by stepping down and warning no one that was coming. The team and Luke Walton mutually agreed to part ways. No team official has made a statement on the direction of the organization. Oh, and somehow Kurt Rambis got invited to interviews with head coaching candidates.
All the while, talk from LeBron James and his camp has been quiet, but boy did that change Tuesday afternoon when Dave McMenamin made an appearance on ESPN Los Angeles 710 with Jorge Sedano, and he was asked for his general read on the Lakers as a whole right now:
“I think it’s very precarious right now. I think the trust that LeBron James has in the Lakers organization has been damaged, maybe irrevocably. I’m not saying it can’t be repaired, but right now, there’s a tough bridge that has fallen and it’s going to be tough to piece it back together. And that’s going to have to a proving ground for Jeanie Buss, for Rob Pelinka, for Kurt Rambis, for Linda Rambis — for whoever else is involved in this process right now. And the initial thing proven with whoever is hired as the coach and then this summer.”
It’s a good thing everyone has such high levels of confidence in Pelinka (who played a part in the travesty that was last year’s roster), Kurt Rambis (only considered one of the all-time disappointments as a head coach the NBA has ever seen), Linda Rambis (who no one really knows anything at all about) and Buss, who put everyone in the place where they could let down James as they have.
This is fine. Everything’s fine.
Sedano then asked McMenamin what exactly it was that did such damage to the James-Lakers relationship, and apparently it all ties back to Johnson stepping away without warning literally anyone:
“I think the Magic thing was a major blow. You go to an organization and you have the most shocking resignation by an executive you’re ever going to see in the history of the sport, and you see that the front office was so disjointed and not on the same page, that your top executive doesn’t tell the owner what’s happening before it happens.... That’s something where, you look at a dwindling timeline in which you can still have that kind of an effect on a game — perhaps stack up a championship or two — to entrust what’s left of your career in a situation like that, again, it’s something that takes a lot to stomach.”
It is and will probably remain impossible to say what percentage Magic played in actually getting James to commit to the Lakers. But it seems safe to say one thing for sure: James almost certainly didn’t come out of some tremendous desire to partner with Pelinka or the Buss family.
There is nothing spectacular about either of those parties that would convince James to commit potentially the last few years of his prime to this organization. And as McMenamin pointed out earlier, they have to get this coach decision right, or else James might really look around and rethink his decision.
What might that look like, you ask? Well:
“And even the most optimistic person, and Mike and I covered Kobe years ago when they went down 3-0 and he really expected to come back from that because his life had been charmed up to that point... Well, you know, he didn’t win that series and LeBron — even if he’s tried to convince himself throughout this year that, okay, this is year one; it’s a process, it can get better... There could be a moment where he looks in the mirror and says, ‘you know what, I have to cut bait.’”
Honestly, it’s surprising it took this long for this kind of noise to be made. The Lakers appear to be completely rudderless (and potentially leaderless, to boot).
James is working to cement his legacy and while he is obviously capable of lifting the organization around him, that isn’t why he came to Los Angeles. If that was what waited for him, he may as well have stayed in Cleveland or found a remotely-stable organization that might position him for the title or two McMenamin alluded to.
Maybe this is merely James’ camp doing their part to scare the Lakers back into order. Perhaps he has a preference on who is hired as head coach and wanted to make that known somehow, without going on the record so as to be responsible if said hire doesn’t work out. But the Lakers have to treat this as the reality and not merely some bluff. If they continue to screw things up, they potentially risk James getting fed up and demanding a trade and, quite frankly, few would blame him at this point.