The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t played basketball in nearly a week, but that hasn’t kept the team out of the headlines as the latest rumors swirl about their options for a Russell Westbrook trade, their ongoing head coaching search and more.
Let’s take a look at all that (and LeBron James’ latest tweets) on this fine Sunday.
Why L.A. may not want Gordon Hayward in a Russell Westbrook trade
The possibility of the Lakers salary dumping Russell Westbrook on the Charlotte Hornets has been a possibility that has been discussed on this site for weeks now, and is a scenario multiple recent reports have said is being whispered about around the league.
The holdup? Well — other than trades normally not being completed until a bit later in the offseason when more teams are eliminated and free to discuss them — veteran NBA insider Marc Stein reported in his latest Substack column that his latest intel suggests the Lakers might be less than eager to take on the injury-prone Gordon Hayward, a frequent centerpiece of many hypothetical Russ deals (emphasis mine):
Yet it has since been conveyed to me that the Lakers have more boundaries than advertised when it comes to weighing Westbrook trades. One league source said that injury histories would be a prime consideration in any deal, given how injuries have so routinely intruded upon the last two seasons for both 37-year-old LeBron James and 29-year-old Anthony Davis.
Translation: The Lakers are unlikely to consent to a Charlotte trade headlined by Gordon Hayward — not after Hayward’s first two seasons in Charlotte have likewise been injury-filled. The Lakers surely understand that they need to factor in durability if they are taking on long-term money, which suggests that Terry Rozier would have to be the Southern California-bound headliner if the Hornets and Lakers eventually progress to serious trade talks.
It is harder to construct a Lakers-Hornets deal involving Westbrook’s massive contract that does not include Hayward, but not impossible. One example of a trade that works financially is Westbrook for Rozier and the expiring contracts of Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre.
Now, would the Hornets be so desperate to save money long-term by moving off Rozier’s that they’d do that deal? Would it require a pick from the Lakers to get multiple decent players for one very expensive, bad and ill-fitting one? I don’t know for sure. I only present it as an example of a deal that could work under the CBA, not one I think is necessarily guaranteed to happen in this exact form.
The real takeaway from this report is that the Lakers are very clearly attempting to maintain some degree of leverage in these negotiations. Maybe they really wouldn’t take Hayward, but they also have no incentive to just start talks from the point of “we will take all your bad contracts because we hate this player we have right now so much.”
And when comparing bad deals, the tie usually goes to the multi-year one, and in that respect, Hayward’s deal is arguably worse than Westbrook’s, considering there are two years left on it at around $30 million each and he has played in 93 games total over two seasons since signing it, and never played in more than 52 in a season over the last three years.
So it’s no surprise the Lakers aren’t desperate to get saddled with that contract, even for a theoretically more useful player who fits better alongside James and Anthony Davis when healthy. If Hayward isn’t going to be much healthier in his age 32 and 33 seasons, the team might want to canvass their other options first before agreeing to take him back from the Hornets, especially if they can get better, potentially healthier players by attaching their available draft picks to Westbrook’s contract.
Why some coaches don’t want the Lakers job
Another day, another report that the Lakers’ open head coaching gig may not be all that attractive, despite the opportunity to live in Los Angeles and helm a roster featuring James and Davis.
After the team reportedly turned off Quin Snyder with the way they fired Frank Vogel and reports that other candidates are wary of the team’s growing rep for micromanaging head coaches and saddling them with insights from Kurt Rambis, an agent for coaches told Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times that while they’re sure the Lakers will get someone to coach their team, it may not be someone with many other options:
Those with knowledge of coaching situations around the league say the Lakers’ reputation isn’t good — concerns about meddling, too many voices, suspect contracts and obvious roster problems creating an equation that has them working from behind.
“Is the Lakers’ job that attractive?” one coaching agent asked, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive subject. “I’m not so sure it is. But someone will take the job.”
Woike added that some people have concerns about the team’s willingness to spend, which is honestly fair after they got outbid for assistants by one of the thriftiest organizations in the NBA, among other, louder monetary transgressions:
There again are concerns about front-office influence in staffing and decision-making. Following lost revenues from the pandemic, a meager one-year extension for Vogel and a refusal to go deeper into the luxury tax to keep Alex Caruso last offseason in free agency, some people with knowledge of the situation have financial concerns.
Ultimately, all this could be moot if a good coach like Klutch client, Phil Jackson disciple and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse just really wants to coach the Lakers, and get everything that comes with that. The team’s two stars are still really, really good, and it’s a fair bet that most coaches feel they could get more out of the roster here than Vogel did, even if they won’t say so publicly.
But if that fantasy scenrio doesn’t happen, the team may be more attractive to multi-time retreads — like Vogel was the last time — who are desperate enough for a job that they’re open to being lowballed and taking input from one of the worst head coaches ever because they wouldn’t be a candidate for the lead chair elsewhere. And if that’s where the Lakers find themselves, they have nothing to blame but their own actions.
LeBron James really wants people to know how well teams that are not the Lakers are doing at coaching
Speaking of Lakers coaching, in a move that is surely unrelated to the organization whatsoever, LeBron James has spent the last two days tweeting some thoughts on other coaching staffs around the NBA, and how good of a job they’re doing.
First, there was this tweet, fired off as Tyronn Lue — James’ former coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers and an almost-Lakers coach — and his LA Clippers held a lead over the New Orleans Pelicans in their play-in game on Friday night:
Simply the BEST coach in the game! ARGUE with your kids not me. ♂️— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 16, 2022
Hilariously, that tweet did not end so well for Lue and his team.
Pelicans outscored the Clippers 31-14 after this tweet was sent https://t.co/lJ70sMKeP1— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 16, 2022
I mean, at least he didn’t name Lue, so maybe he can claim he was talking about Willie Green.
Then, on Sunday, James teamed up with former teammate and the latest Baby Laker to breakout elsewhere, Kyle Kuzma, to praise the Miami Heat’s admittedly elite player development staff:
Facts! Player Development there is damn good!! https://t.co/sA5uzs7Hro— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 17, 2022
Look, this shade is all fun and games until James starts tweeting about a great point Mark Jackson made during one of these broadcasts, or how good a job Doc Rivers is doing with the Sixers. At that point we can all go DEFCON-1 and worry that the Lakers have a Shabazz Napier Situation on their hands.
But until then, we can just assume James is just — completely innocently and surely with no ulterior motives whatsoever — giving his former coaches some love.