The Los Angeles Lakers unpredictably saw their contract negotiations with Tyronn Lue to be their next head coach flame out in ugly and public fashion on Wednesday evening, and over the course of the night we’ve started to get a sense of why.
There are reports that the Lakers lowballed Lue with an offer of three years and $18 million, money that would not have done much to go over the guaranteed money he has left from the Cleveland Cavaliers, guaranteed cash that would be offset by accepting another head coaching job. We also know that the team tried to get him to take on Jason Kidd as an assistant coach, something he was not amenable to for reasons that are fairly obvious.
But now, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, we may know the biggest reason why negotiations with Lue broke down. It was less about the yearly money the Lakers were offering Lue, and more about the impression they were leaving — that they didn’t think he had any other options, and only saw him as a coach for LeBron James:
Negotiations really deteriorated w/ Ty Lue when the Lakers refused to offer more than a three year deal that was designed to line up with LeBron James’ contract. Lue felt insulted the Lakers only saw him as a coach for LeBron, sources close to the process told ESPN.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 9, 2019
One league source said it appeared that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka never expected negotiations could fall apart as they did because Lue didn’t have other offers. Lue was seeking a 5-year deal, believing his championship experience commanded it.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 9, 2019
It’s pretty easy to see why Lue would be miffed about this. It’s not clear what type of offset he has in his contract with the Cavaliers, but even if getting hired by the Lakers only offset, say, 70 percent of the over $10 million he reportedly has remaining on his Cavs contract, that’s still upwards of $7 million he could be getting to not work that he’d be giving up to work.
I don’t know about you, but it would take a lot more than $11 million to get me to not choose to stay unemployed and get $10 million anyway, and that’s assuming Lue wouldn’t have to give even more than 70 percent back were he to take another gig.
Then there is the matter of pride. Everyone in professional sports has it, and Lue is surely no different. The Lakers essentially telling him with that deal length that they want to be able to hire a non-LeBron coach once James is gone is something of a proverbial middle finger, and probably implied to him that they don’t think all that highly of Lue as a coach in general. And that’s without mentioning that he clearly sees himself as more financially valuable than the Lakers do.
We’ll surely continue to get details in the coming days over why and how this got so messed up, but regardless of what you think of Lue as a head coach or how big of a loss this is, the last thing this new and inexperienced front office regime needed heading into free agency was another circus dealing a hit to their perception league-wide, but with how badly this Lue thing has gone, that’s exactly what they’re getting.