LeBron James is almost never direct in his public messaging. Decades of managing his brand have made him one of the more image-conscious athletes in the history of professional sports. And yet, in the Los Angeles Lakers’ final game before the NBA trade deadline, he was uncharacteristically direct when asked about this current roster.
“No,” was James’ response to a question about whether this team can compete at the highest level as currently constructed. The response was shocking, honestly, and felt like a direct challenge to management to fix this roster, even if he clearly had a hand in putting it together.
Obviously, the rest is history. The Lakers have not done a thing to change this roster since that quote, despite clear internal and external pressure to do so. To decipher what all this means, I welcomed Jorge Sedano of ESPN, someone who watched up close as James’ tenure in Miami came to an end.
Sedano and I started with that trade deadline, and the message from ownership/management to James, Rich Paul and Anthony Davis that it’s on them to fix the bed they made — even if Rob Pelinka was’t blameless in making this mess, either.
The last time James was challenged like that, he hopped on a plane from Miami and never returned, and that was by Pat Riley. No offense to Pelinka, Jeanie Buss, or anyone in the Lakers’ organization right now, but you could add up their collective cache, and it isn’t coming close to Riley’s.
James isn’t under contract beyond next season. We know he has interest in playing with his son, Bronny, and his departures can usually be traced back via breadcrumbs he dropped along the way. Did the combination of clear distaste for the roster he’s on and the ensuing inaction get him to start dropping pieces of bread? We tried discussed all that and more.
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