There was a report on Thursday that LeBron James wanted the Los Angeles Lakers to hire Tyronn Lue as their next head coach. There is no reason to doubt that rumor now that Lue appears all-but-hired, but James — and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports — apparently never instructed the Lakers to hire Lue, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
Or, at least they didn’t do so directly:
Ty Lue and LeBron have spoken within the last few weeks, and of course 23 would welcome a reunion with his coach from the Cavs. But neither LeBron nor Rich Paul told the Lakers whom to hire as coach — per sources— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) May 3, 2019
The phrasing of that report is interesting, because while Vardon is as plugged in to James’ camp as anyone and there is no reason to doubt what he’s saying, not directly telling the Lakers to hire Lue isn’t exactly the same thing as not trying to influence the process whatsoever.
There have now been a few reports that James isn’t going to tell the front office what to do, but that’s not the same as not letting his opinion be known, and then allowing the team figure out what to do about that. There was the aforementioned leak that James wanted Lue, and while that isn’t telling the Lakers to hire him, but it’s a way of using the media to let it be known what he wants, without any of the accountability if it doesn’t work out.
This is similar to the earlier leak that James had potentially lost trust in the Lakers, something he later denied but no doubt sounded alarm bells within the organization, letting them know where his camp stood without having to look like the bad guy when he denied it very publicly on Instagram in a post that was later blasted across, TV, social media and the internet at large. It’s the best of both worlds, selling the narrative that the team is working cohesively so that fans don’t turn on him, while also very much letting them know how he felt with deniability.
This isn’t a uniquely LeBron thing, either. This is just how the game is played. All these parties — teams, players, agents, etc. — use the media to sell their narrative, and it’s our job to think critically about who information becoming public benefits in each case. In this specific scenario, the bread crumbs point to James letting the Lakers know what he wants, without looking like he’s trying to run the organization himself, a GM-LeBron narrative he’s reportedly “sensitive” to and appears to know fans view unfavorably when it happens on their team. But that’s just one aggregator’s read.
Regardless, even without James’ explicit aid, Lue appears set to be the team’s next head coach, and he did get some direct help in his quest to get there, as his former Lakers coach Phil Jackson did reportedly directly recommend that Jeanie Buss hire him, which along with his Lakers ties can allow the Lakers to sell the narrative that they’re in charge, even if in all likelihood they want to please James, as any team would with their star.
And however we got here, all we’re waiting on now is for Lue to officially get hired. Whoever made the call, or whoever tried to influence the decision, it’s now made, and we just have to wait and see how it works out. If Lue turns out to be as correct of a choice as he appears to be, it ultimately matters a lot less how the Lakers got here anyway.