When Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said, following the trade deadline, that Anthony Davis and LeBron James — and thusly Klutch Sports — were aligned with the team’s mindset to stand pat, it’s becoming rather clear that was somewhere between an exaggeration and a flat-out lie.
As James and Klutch Sports have begun making it readily apparent they did not sign off on the Lakers not making a trade with James going as far as to begin planning his exit from the franchise, the fallout from the deadline is painting a pretty grim picture between the team and the agency employing their two star players.
The latest report from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report points to the team’s decision not to swap Russell Westbrook and a pick for John Wall as the moment things reached the boiling point between Klutch and the Lakers.
According to multiple NBA sources, Klutch is not happy with Pelinka. The sentiment has long percolated, but it reached a boil when Pelinka refused to trade Westbrook and a future first-round pick (likely 2027) for Houston Rockets guard and Klutch client John Wall.
The move didn’t make sense for the Lakers from a basketball standpoint as a significant upgrade over Westbrook, even though Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game last year. Wall hasn’t played this season, with the Rockets focusing on developing younger players. From the Klutch point of view, the Lakers would get their client out of a bad situation in Houston and undo the Westbrook mistake.
As Pincus notes, there wasn’t much of a basketball reason for the Lakers to make the move. Any decision to swap the two players would stem from either the team feeling the Westbrook situation was untenable — which still may be true — or that Wall was a better, more capable fit alongside James and Davis. Knowing the latter would be simply impossible given Wall hasn’t played an NBA game in nearly a year and the former certainly doesn’t appear to be the case right now with Westbrook no longer actively looking to throw shade at head coach Frank Vogel for now.
It’s understandable why Klutch was heavily in support of getting three of its highest-paid clients together on the same team, especially one in Wall that is in an awful basketball situation right now. Their anger, though, is not simply because of the team not doing that trade, but an overall lack of activity at the deadline.
It can’t be ignored, though, that if Klutch Sports and James are planning a departure from the Lakers, these are the seeds they would lay as rationale down the road. There are some legitimate reasons for anger at the deadline. It’s still somewhat unfathomable that the team simply made no moves, especially with their loss to the Blazers fresh in their rearview mirrors.
How much of it is a result of the specific trade is unclear but largely irrelevant. Klutch Sports isn’t pleased and it likely spells the beginning of the end of at least James’ time in Los Angeles.
At the same time, it can’t be ignored that it was James and Davis that wanted Westbrook over Buddy Hield this past offseason. The team traded effectively all its remaining assets for Westbrook and then, inside of the same year, wanted to then trade Westbrook with one of their few assets left for another point guard. At some point, the Lakers were going to have to draw a line in the sand and this trade deadline appears to be the formation of that line.
This is the nature of how James’ tenures have gone. Teams trade away assets to go absolutely all-in, win a title and then James and Klutch Sports depart, leaving the franchise barren of assets. It’s something the Lakers signed up for when they initially signed James and knew that was the end game when they extended him years later.
But everything about the last week indicates that the end is nearing for James and the Lakers. Enjoy the moments he has left in purple and gold because it’s a very finite amount left now.