Things are not great with the Los Angeles Lakers right now. A few days after franchise legend Magic Johnson resigned from his position as the team’s president of basketball operations, they parted ways with their head coach, Luke Walton, and athletic trainer, Marc Nunez. It’s been two weeks and they have yet to fill those positions.
However, things aren’t as bad as many thought they were. On Tuesday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported that the trust between LeBron James and the Lakers had been “damaged” as a result of Johnson’s abrupt and unexpected departure. According to James himself, though, that isn’t true.
James took to Instagram on Wednesday to address the rumors surrounding his relationship with the Lakers’ brass, and he made his stance pretty clear:
LeBron denies a rift the Lakers in the most LeBron way possible pic.twitter.com/ppMpO0ZF8r— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) April 24, 2019
Now, James could be doing his impression of the “This is fine” dog, but James has never been one to hide his feelings, especially via Instagram. If things were really that bad between James and the Lakers, his subtweets would probably leave little room for interpretation.
However, that’s not to say he hasn’t expressed feelings of uneasiness about the current state of the Lakers privately, which could be what McMenamin’s report was getting at. Because let’s be honest, why wouldn’t he?
James signed with the Lakers in part because they had made a commitment to reshaping their franchise two years before his arrival. When he inked his four-year, $153.3 million contract with Los Angeles, he was buying into what they were selling. Unfortunately, what the front office was selling hasn’t been all it was hyped up to be so far — kind of like the Fyre Festival.
It’s also worth noting that James kind of has to say this, so while he might not come out and say he’s unhappy with where the Lakers are, it’s not hard to imagine he might be. And as LeBron-coverage veteran Brian Windhorst of ESPN noted recently, James generally doesn’t speak in clear terms about how he’s feeling about the direction of his team anyway:
Often it seems observers of James want to classify his acts in clear-cut terms. He traded this player. He got that coach fired. He signed this other guy. It gave rise to the concept, for example, that James was the “GM” in Cleveland.
Oh, how often this is so far from the truth. In perfect irony, despite what the world assumes, sometimes James’ teams wish he would be so declarative. It’s that frequently he isn’t willing to make clear requests that can often be a problem. Sometimes teams would love a black-and-white answer while James usually operates in a world of gray.
James has mastered the art of influencing decisions without taking ownership of them. If he were to issue a hard-and-fast edict, then the team would know he was fully willing to stand behind it and take blame, or credit, when it works or fails.
Whatever the case is here, the front office would be wise to ensure they aren’t testing their superstar’s patience because, as he’s said in the past, he’s not a very patient guy. Maybe they haven’t yet, but they should do their best to keep it that way.