One trend that has certainly become increasingly pervasive over the years — seemingly ever since front offices began to be led more often by analytical thinkers rather than former players — has been the rising level of contempt players have towards their executives.
Now, there are obviously several factors at play here, but the superstar empowerment era definitely seems to have coincided with the rise of statistically driven executives, but it’s worth wondering whether there is an actual connection and, if so, whether the Lakers have figured something out with LeBron James and Rob Pelinka.
This week on “I Love Basketball,” Sabreena Merchant and I marvel at the very abrupt firing of Gersson Rosas, which followed some wild Doc Rivers quotes, which, because of course, followed reports of outright dysfunction in New Orleans.
Just a reminder: Media Days for teams across the country will be taking place within a week.
Again, I don’t mean to imply that analytics are solely responsible for the recent rise in superstar trade demands. This is a trend that dates back to LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach. And even before then, stars have always looked to wield power over the teams they play for. They’re just more successful at it nowadays.
As superstars have learned that their teams (if not the league as whole) cannot fully function without their cooperation, they have taken it upon themselves to create the absolute optimal situations for themselves, no matter who they trample in their attempts. This isn’t all that different from power brokers across capitalism, but it should be pointed out that power wielded is inherently done so to those who have less leverage. That’s just how this works.
Former players knew how the league worked. They knew how they preferred to work with their employers. Just by way of their shared experience, former players could further relate as they did what was best for their team, with more respect from players who might hope to one day hold their position. For surely a variety of reasons, that relationship between current players and analytically motivated executives is pretty clearly more complicated, if not outright volatile.
Which brings us finally to the Lakers, led by Rob Pelinka and LeBron James — though in which order is up for debate, according to Carmelo Anthony.
Magic Johnson was the former player turned exec. James looked forward to working with him. Then, Johnson walked away and Pelinka stepped in, to his credit apparently knowing full well how things were going to work. As a result, even while the Lakers have rocked the boat with major moves over the last few years, we’ve never heard about any erosion of the relationship between superstar and executive.
So while we might not always agree with the decisions they make, we can at least be thankful that we don’t have to worry as much about waking up to the news cycles fans of the Timberwolves, Pelicans and Sixers had to today. Sabreena and I discussed all that (and more) on the show.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.