While the Lakers coaching search is moving forward to the final stages, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the franchise, ranging from the roster to the front office. Questions about whether the team keep Russell Westbrook or not will be a lasting storyline for many more weeks and months. The team’s front office, though, is going to be a storyline that seemingly has no end date as they continue to be a mess.
All that and more are the focus of today’s news and headlines.
Russell Westbrook’s still uncertain future
Some of the latest non-coaching rumors for the Lakers have been about their plans for Russell Westbrook. Reportedly during their interviews with coaching candidates, the Lakers were asking how they would utilize Westbrook. A follow-up report indicated that the team was still undecided about what to do with Westbrook, but it further clouded what the franchise intends to do heading into the offseason.
Longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein offered his insight on the situation, backing up the report that they were asking candidates about Westbrook while also noting that Westbrook’s days are still likely numbered in LA.
One Russell Westbrook trade note: While the Lakers have indeed asked coaches they’ve interviewed in recent weeks how they would manage a roster that still features Westbrook, that’s not to say L.A. has already decided to bring the former All-Star guard back for the final season remaining (at a tidy $47 million) on his current contract. The Lakers won’t rule that out, because they would naturally prefer to avoid trades that require them to inject a future first-round pick to push the deal through, but they also know that the fresh-start atmosphere they hope to create when training camp begins in September will be extremely difficult to foster if Westbrook is still on the roster. I, for one, still struggle to imagine a scenario where Westbrook starts next season as a Laker — even if that means releasing him or trying to hash out some sort of buyout.
It seems, then, that the Lakers are doing due diligence on the matter when it comes to Westbrook and coaches. It would make sense to at least broach the topic with coaching candidates so both sides are aware of the possibility and what the outcome would be.
It doesn’t change what happened last season, though, with regards to Westbrook and it shouldn’t change the idea that he’s likely on his way out, one way or the other.
A messy Lakers front office
It’s certainly not new information that the Lakers front office isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. It’s a bit of a mess with some unlikely names mixed in. Ethan Strauss, former writer at The Athletic and author of his newsletter “House of Strauss” now, offered some more details on the front office on Friday.
Based on conversations with those in the know, a ranking of the most powerful Laker decision-making officials would be: executive director/special projects Linda Rambis, director of basketball affairs Kurt Rambis, president of business operations Tim Harris (who dated Jeanie Buss long ago) and general manager Rob Pelinka. That’s the order as I understand it, and that’s without the confounding variables of LeBron James, Rich Paul and their Klutch Sports Group. LeBron and Klutch have been controlling Laker basketball decisions, but it’s not clear how long that dynamic will last. Theirs is a massive influence but likely a passing one.
I do not doubt that Linda Rambis has that level of power simply because of how close she is to owner Jeanie Buss, but I also do not think she is remotely involved with the basketball decision-making process. Same largely goes for Tim Harris, who has been more involved in the non-basketball side of things.
Kurt Rambis, on the other hand, yeah he’s probably that powerful.
Strauss also discussed a semi-recent departure from front office in Ryan West and the unceremonious nature in which it all played out.
According to sources, Jerry West’s son Ryan, formerly a scout for the Lakers, was frozen out in his last year with the team, the 2018-19 season, in an act of proxy revenge directed towards his father. What does “frozen out,” mean? Ryan West wouldn’t be involved in any meetings or official operations. He’d show up to the facility and essentially get treated as a ghost, in what was effectively a dare to leave. Publicly, Pelinka would talk up his involvement with the Lakers. Within the halls, a decision was made to coldly cut ties.
West left the Lakers and landed with the Detroit Pistons, but that didn’t make his exit any less notable. He had worked his way up the franchise before leaving in 2019 and considering the relations between Jerry and the Lakers, that bridge is likely nuked.
Trading for Doc Rivers?
It seems as though the Lakers have moved past Doc Rivers, current coach of the Sixers, by moving into the next stage of their interview process without any mention of Rivers among the finalists.
Even after the Sixers committed to the Rivers the day after their season ended, the rumors persisted. Sam Amick of The Athletic suggested the idea of a trade between Philly and the Lakers, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN said the situation was one to keep an eye on even after Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey’s comments and Bill Simmons took some shots as well on Twitter.
But it seems even those half-baked ideas can be put to rest as there’s nothing to the notion that the Sixers are looking to trade Doc, as further reported by Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers.
There is zero truth to any rumor that the Sixers are looking to trade Doc Rivers to the Lakers and then hire Mike D'Antoni, I'm told.— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) May 20, 2022
So keep the champagne bottles popped as it seems certain that the Lakers won’t be coached by Doc.
NBA insider LaVar Ball predicts star free agent to Lakers
Have you guys missed LaVar Ball? No? Yeah, me either. And trust me, I’ve had LOTS of LaVar in my life.
But how about some levity to close things out. LaVar appeared on ESPN 1000 for a radio interview in Chicago with David Kaplan. While there, LaVar dropped the big scoop that literally no other reporter who dedicates their entire professional lives to could manage in revealing that Zach LaVine is bound for Los Angeles and the Lakers.
No, this isn’t happening. It’s barely even possible. It would require some kind of combination of trading Russell Westbrook for literally nothing, shedding a bunch of cap space and then presumably signing LaVine as a free agent. Or it could be some sort of sign-and-trade with LaVine and Westbrook, which is somehow less probable.
The good news is LaVar’s random outbursts aren’t about the Lakers anymore, so take some solace in that.