For a long time this season, the Lakers spent much of their public comments to the media preaching patience. “Just wait until we get healthy!” and “we just need more time to gel!” were common thematic refrains. But as the NBA trade deadline nears on Thursday and the team sits at 26-29, in ninth place in the Western Conference, even the players on the roster feel that the time for patience is over.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN is as plugged into this organization as a reporter can be, and he dropped a couple of fairly noteworthy scoops in his postgame dispatch after the team’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, writing that even players in the locker room have been forced to acknowledge that “the roster is not working.”
Via McMenamin, emphasis mine:
Tuesday marked the Lakers’ 27th different starting lineup in their 55th game. It was just the 18th time that James, Davis and Westbrook all played together.
While L.A. is 10-8 in those games, standing pat and hoping that winning percentage improves to finish the season strong is not seen as a viable option by players on the team, sources told ESPN.
By the next morning, two other beat reporters had written about similar whispers, with almost exactly similar phrasing, meaning someone in the locker room — or a few someones — really wants this out there.
Multiple sources told Southern California News Group that player unrest has been brewing in the locker room for weeks.
Sources told The Athletic that inside the locker room, players see and feel the same problems as everyone else, perhaps never more clearly than after a non-competitive loss to the champs. They understand as well as anyone that the personnel on this joyless 26-29 team simply isn’t working.
Locker room frustrations boil over after loss to the Bucks, sources confirming what everyone has seen through 55 games - this isn’t working https://t.co/eATdxfNeVH— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) February 9, 2022
So... yeah. If Russell Westbrook coming out and publicly blasting head coach Frank Vogel for not respecting his career numbers or whatever after a blowout defeat wasn’t enough of a signal about how toxic this situation has gotten, the players’ themselves are openly admitting on the record to multiple reporters that they’re just about set to see a few of their co-workers pack their bags.
Given the other little nugget McMenamin dropped in his original story — and who actually came out and spoke to the media last night — it’s, uh, not hard to guess who at least one such player who feels that way might be:
James had a hand in L.A.’s roster construction in the offseason, consulting with Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka on everything from the Westbrook trade with the Washington Wizards to free-agent signings, sources told ESPN. Pelinka will continue to collaborate with James leading up to the deadline in an attempt to improve the Lakers’ chances of a deep run this season, sources told ESPN.
Long story short, if it wasn’t abundantly obvious already by his postgame comments about the Lakers not being good enough, LeGM is ready to go to work. How much he and his chief assistant Rob Pelinka can get done in the next 48 hours remains to be seen, but nothing would surprise me at this point, from a Frank Vogel firing, to Westbrook being sent packing or to go sit at home, to anything in between. This just feels that dysfunctional and chaotic right now.
Is all that a tad overdramatic? Maybe. Will any of the above hypotheticals happen? I don’t know. I’m just saying that when someone as powerful as James is this openly frustrated to the point of verbally subtweeting his own teammates repeatedly, it’s rare for the status quo to remain in place.
So buckle up. This could get crazy.
To keep up with all the latest reports before the deadline, check out our 2022 Lakers trade rumors tracker. 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.