The Los Angeles Lakers currently have a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, but aside from a couple of first-team All NBA spots for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the team hasn’t really been honored for their efforts.
Yes, the votes were taken at the end of the pre-bubble regular season, but as much as we like to joke, it’s not like the Lakers were some totally unexpected underdog at that point like their opponents in the Finals, the Miami Heat. L.A. had the best record in the Western Conference, second-best record in the NBA, and had just beaten the team ahead of them (the Milwaukee Bucks) and the team many picked as the preseason favorites (the LA Clippers).
Still, LeBron James fell short in the MVP vote. Anthony Davis couldn’t get enough support to win in the Defensive Player of the Year polling. Frank Vogel finished fifth in the Coach of the Year race. Jared Dudley couldn’t even crack the top five for Teammate of the Year!
The latest (and last) instance of the Lakers not being honored for their regular season success came when general manager Rob Pelinka finished seventh in Executive of the Year voting. The Lakers are one win away from being just the third Western Conference team ever to ever not get pushed past five games in a playoff series, and they officially have nada to show for it (other than a possible title).
James himself was asked about Pelinka coming up short and the continued lack of awards recognition at the Lakers’ practice on Thursday, and he said he’s not sure why it keeps happening.
“You’d have to ask whoever voted,” James said.
For most awards, that would be assorted members of the media. For this one in particular, however, it’s voted on by an executive’s peers. That is probably in part why Pelinka didn’t win it, due to peers jealously dismissing any Lakers success this season as solely due to him working with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The counter to that, though, is that it’s just what any smart general manager would do.
“His willingness to talk to me and Bron and Coach Vogel about decisions and whatever else that we talk about — he includes us in a ton of things — I think that’s what a GM, an executive should do, include his top two guys and include his head coach,” Davis said.
Pelinka has also made good moves on the margins, from signing Dwight Howard when DeMarcus Cousins got hurt, to backing out of the Marcus Morris trade talks to pick up his twin Markieff on the buyout market. And as Pelinka has made those moves, Vogel said it’s not just James and Davis who have been consulted and worked with.
“Everyone always wants to talk about collaboration but are not always willing to exhibit that type of collaboration. That’s what struck me first,” Vogel said. “I was very, very involved in every personnel decision, really every organizational decision that was made from the time I was hired. And it really has been a wonderful partnership between Rob and myself.”
Vogel said that mindset has extended throughout the organization, to his relationships with James and Davis, as well as his bonds on the executive side with team governor Jeanie Buss, senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis and senior vice president of business operations Tim Harris.
“We set out to achieve for organizational togetherness, and I think Rob’s relationship with me from the start set a great tone for that,” Vogel said.
This is a Joke right???? Over Rob Pelinka??? Stop it!!!! AD trade, signing Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and the best trade deadline move was signing Markieff Morris. Oh yeah and the Lakers was the best team in the west and 2nd overall.. Said we gave up to much for AD ♂️ https://t.co/TypX0geBEe— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) October 8, 2020
The only credit Pelinka will get for this season is if the Lakers win the title, which is just fine with Davis and the rest of the Lakers. They know what their GM brought to the table, even if Pelinka’s peers want to diminish what he did.
“I know, and the entire organization knows the work he’s put in to put this team together, to build this team to compete for a championship,” Davis said. “I know those awards don’t matter to him. Championships do. We’re putting ourselves in a position and he put our team in a position to be able to be one win away. Once we finish our job and do what we’re supposed to do, then I don’t think no one is going to care about Executive of the Year.”
“If that doesn’t get him that award, then so be it,” Davis continued. “It would just make it even more special to win it now that I know he came in seventh and got one first-place vote.”
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.