After a season in which the Lakers failed as badly as they did, everything should be on the table when it comes to changes in the offseason.
Well, maybe not EVERYTHING.
There are some players on the roster that should be (and are still) untouchable, and LeBron James at the top of that list. As angry or emotional as Lakers fans might be right now, LeBron’s future sounds like it will squarely be in Los Angeles, at least through his current contract.
However, in a bit of an upset, Russell Westbrook could be on the list of returning Lakers as well, or at least that’s what the Lakers are spinning to the media. Who may be coaching those two still remains up in the air, but one of the other coaching vacancies around the league may soon be filled.
Let’s discuss all that in today’s headlines and reports.
He won’t be LeGone James... for now
The Lakers aren’t going to trade LeBron James, and it’s wild that needs to be made clear. But as is the nature of modern media, with talking heads throwing out ridiculous ideas, it seemingly needs to be reported that, no, LeBron will not be traded by the Lakers.
According to Dan Woike of the LA Times — and despite suggestions from Stephen A. Smith and Bill Plaschke — the Lakers are offering no indications they’re shopping LeBron. And if they were, not every team would be lining up to jump through hoops to make such a deal possible:
After conversations with some rival general managers and scouts around the NBA, the first thing to know is that if James were available via trade – and to be 100% clear, there are ZERO indications that’s the case – is that it wouldn’t be 29 other teams bidding on him.
So, LeBron isn’t going anywhere next season. But with his contract set to expire after that, questions will arise.
While LeBron sounded ready to commit to the Lakers — even if he and Klutch have reportedly not talked about an extension — and the team itself is open to it, it will likely be a series of one-year deals with player options for a second year as LeBron did in Cleveland, as reported by Sam Amick of The Athletic.
If LeBron James ultimately decides against signing an extension with the Lakers in August, sources say Buss wouldn’t see his desire to play out the final season of his contract as a reason to consider trading him. Without an extension, James’ current deal will expire after next season (in which he’s owed $47.1 million).
It’s a natural question to ask in these sorts of situations, as the notion of James leaving the Lakers empty-handed by signing elsewhere in the summer of 2023 would be less than ideal. Still, all signs point to the year-by-year approach being considered acceptable by the Lakers — so long as the relationship with James is still in a good place.
LeBron showed his faith in the Lakers front office in his last extension, which was for multiple years without a no-trade clause. They repaid him by making the play-in game and missing the play-in game in successive seasons. It would seem fair and likely, then, that he would put some pressure back on the front office with one-plus-one deals that serve as a looming threat of LeBron dipping out in free agency each year.
Lakers weren’t happy with how Vogel handled Russ
The Frank Vogel scapegoating is reaching all-time levels of silly from the Lakers now. The franchise seemingly thinks fans believe everything they leak because, in the aforementioned Amick piece, the team reportedly is blaming Vogel for the struggles of Russell Westbrook this season.
When the decision was made to fire Vogel, sources say his handling of Westbrook and the inability to find a way to make him a more productive part of the program were among the factors that played a big part. There was a strong sense that it was on Vogel to make the Westbrook experiment work, and the fact that it didn’t led to questions about whether Westbrook had been put in a position to succeed. That sure smells like the hope of a Russ revival to me.
Now, for those keeping track, this is the same Lakers front office that gave Vogel permission to bench Westbrook to close games during the season. It’s the same front office that pushed, in some capacity, to take Westbrook out of the starting lineup. It’s a front office that clearly did not want Westbrook playing a big role in games, but now it is a front office blaming Vogel for Westbrook not playing well.
In this instance, the front office is clearly trying to gain some sort of leverage for a Westbrook trade. But in doing so, they’ve contradicted themselves,s which mainly only serves to further make thems look clueless.
Darvin Ham is a frontrunner in Charlotte
The first name linked to the Lakers in their head coaching search, Darvin Ham may not even be available for the team to deliberate hiring him. Because while Charlotte is also still early in the process of hiring their next head coach, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that Ham and Mike D’Antoni are frontrunners for their vacancy (emphasis mine).
“I’m told two frontrunners for the Hornets head coaching position are Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, and two-time head coach of the year Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni has already interviewed for the position, I’m told, and Darvin Ham will conduct his in-person interview with the Hornets later this week. And so this is a process that will be a little bit slower, just like the Lakers. They’ll be deliberate, they’ll make sure that they get this decision right, but it’s obvious that they’re prioritizing bringing in someone that can provide some more authority on defense, some more discipline on defense, and also some overall structure on both ends of the floor for a young team building, obviously, around LaMelo Ball.”
Ham will be a highly-desired candidate for just about any coaching opening this offseason, or at least ones for competent franchises. The Lakers’ desire to take their search slow will allow them to interview many candidates, but it doesn’t mean all candidates will be willing to wait for them.
It could create an interesting dynamic if the Lakers are forced into making a decision on a candidate they potentially really value, like a Darvin Ham, but we’ll see how it all continues to unfold.
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