Darren Collison may not have decided whether to come out of retirement or not for sure yet, but it’s safe to say that the Los Angeles Lakers have already fully entered into full recruitment mode.
Team governor Jeanie Buss and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis met with Collison before the Lakers’ game against the Houston Rockets on Thursday night, which was followed by Collison joining Buss at her seats and being shown on the jumbotron to raucous cheers from Lakers fans. It was as conspicuous a recruiting visit as I can remember an NBA team having midseason, and one players from the current roster tried to ignore.
However, while most in the locker room claimed not to notice all of that, or said Collison’s presence wasn’t a big deal, it does seem the team was even more involved with the guard than we previously realized that night.
Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times had the scoop on the details of the burgeoning recruitment (emphasis mine):
When word began to circulate recently that Collison had been working out and was interested in playing again in the NBA, Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Collison had a talk about his plans and how Los Angeles might fit into those, according to people who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
There also were people in Collison’s camp that had been in recent contact with Linda Rambis, the executive director of special projects and a confidant of Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss, according to those with knowledge of the situation.
That eventually led to the free agent heading to Staples Center on Thursday and visiting the Lakers’ locker room before sitting in seats next to Buss.
Collison will reportedly decide whether or not to come out of retirement for sure over the next few days, and meet with the Lakers and LA Clippers next week if he does decide to make a comeback.
While we wait for him to make his choice, it is worth noting how awkward this process has to be for the current members of the roster, especially those at the end of the bench.
Rumors are one thing, but publicly hosting a player in first row seats next to the team governor and showing them the locker room of a team that would have to cut guys currently on the roster has to be (at best) an incredibly strange experience for the members of said roster.
Turner’s report is phrased in a way that makes it nebulous if Davis was actually recruiting Collison to the Lakers, but come on, what else would they really be talking about? And while Collison tried to play it off like it was no big deal and he was just watching basketball game to make things less awkward... come on. Let’s be real.
Now, a title waits for no one’s feelings, so this isn’t to fault the Lakers for going after Collison. He’d in theory address a ton of their weaknesses, and the front office would be negligent to not take a look to see if he would be willing to come out of retirement for a chance at a championship. But doing things this publicly when they’d have to cut someone to add him is a strange approach.
Still, it’s the approach the Lakers are taking, so guys like, say, Troy Daniels for example, are just going to have to deal with it. And there are obvious merits to doing things this way — the ovation Collison got in Staples Center had to make him feel like this fanbase really gets that they need him — it just may be a little awkward for everyone on the team, and doubly so if they hear that one of their leaders has been recruiting him.
All of that probably doesn’t matter in the long run if the Lakers win a title — and almost certainly doesn’t matter to most fans — it’s just worth acknowledging that things might be a bit weird in the locker room until the Lakers figure out if they’re bringing someone in off the buyout market, and who they’re cutting to do so. With Collison set to make his decision at some time before or after next week’s All-Star Break, at least those involved won’t have to wait long.
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.