Between Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka, the Rambii, LeBron James and everyone else involved with the decisions that led to the most disappointing season in Lakers history, there just aren’t very many people particularly used to admitting error. If that braintrust wants a chance at rectifying last summer’s mistakes, they’ll have to start by coming to grips with their failures.
For an organization so rife with self-interest as the Lakers are, this is no small task.
There’s no point in relitigating the Russell Westbrook trade. It happened, a lot of last season’s wrongs can be traced back to it. It’s time to move on. But you can’t do that if you’re unwilling to come to grips with the reality of the situation.
To this point, one could make a very strong argument that the part of his job Pelinka has been best at has been remaining employed. And look, workplace politics are an important talent, so respect. But now, given the challenges that still lie ahead of him, he’ll have to focus more on reopening the title window than he has on maintaining power within the organization.
This doesn’t even stop at Pelinka. Jeanie Buss has lived a pretty blessed life with the Lakers fan base as all she’s had to do was not be her brother Jim. Now, though, as he is no longer her meat shield, she’ll have to prove to everyone she’s actually good at this in her own right, and not just compared to her failson sibling.
Since she’s gained power, she has hired Magic Johnson (who bailed on the job after a tumultuous year), lured James, entrusted Pelinka after Johnson departed, won a championship, and been out of title contention for the other three years since James’ arrival. She has stuck by her inner circle of close friends even as people from within the Lakers’ own walls have wondered what Linda Rambis does.
You can operate like that, rely on cronyism and nepotism, and stand by those decisions if things are going well, but if they aren’t and you’re running a multi-billion-dollar corporation like a mom and pop restaurant, then you are going to have to answer for those decisions.
As difficult as it might be to confront close friends, if the Lakers continue to spin their wheels in the mud even despite employing James and Anthony Davis, then she’ll have to prioritize what’s best for the franchise over those relationships.
Nobody is saying any of this is easy. It’s borderline unfair for me to sit here at my computer and demand that people not prioritize their careers or personal relationships in the name of the team we root for. But it’s also their jobs. It’s what they signed up for when they accepted the responsibility of running the Los Angeles Lakers.
So long as their focus is on anything other than turning things around, though, they simply don’t stand a chance given the razor thin margin for error their past mistakes have left them.
This week in “The Lakers Lounge,” I discussed all this with Harrison Faigen, wondered why teams haven’t made more serious offers for Kevin Durant, offered my latest analogy for the situation the Lakers, Nets, and Kyrie Irving find themselves in, and more.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.