Few around the Lakers have been more openly critical of the team’s front office this year than LeBron James. On multiple occasions, LeBron has made postgame pleas for a trade to help bolster the roster as he has done everything he can to keep it afloat.
It’s been a change of pace of sorts for LeBron, as he has put public pressure on the front office knowing exactly how much weight his words carry. However, at the same time, he’s had a direct line to vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka as well.
Last week at Rui Hachimura’s introductory press conference, Pelinka spoke to the media and made note that LeBron and Anthony Davis are among those routinely kept in the loop and being involved with decisions that are being made (via Kyle Goon/OC Register).
“Our captains, LeBron and Anthony Davis, are always involved in what Coach Ham is doing, what the front office is doing,” he said Tuesday at Hachimura’s introduction. “At the same time, I think LeBron said it really well at the press conference the other night when he said, ‘My job is to play basketball. The front office’s job is to do their job and build a roster. And Coach Ham ‘s job is to coach.’ I agree with that. We all have to do our jobs and do them with excellence and all be together. That’s how we operate and will continue to operate.”
This isn’t to suggest LeBron is being two-faced in any way or playing both sides of the fence. He can make as many suggestions as he wants behind the scenes, and he probably has. It’s unlikely he signed his extension without some assurances that the team would do its best to be competitive.
At the same time, behind-the-scenes suggestions don’t have nearly as much power as public pleas. LeBron went all the way into December before making a call for help, certainly far later than he asked for help behind the scenes to Pelinka. His patience wore thin a lot later than most of the fans, who were asking for trades immediately after the 2-10 start.
It’s not the first time Pelinka has noted that LeBron is still included in decision-making. Even as recent as this summer, Pelinka said that he met with LeBron and Ham to discuss the upcoming season. This spring, though, Pelinka made it clear the buck stops with him even if he’s asking for LeBron and AD’s input.
It’s a collaborative approach that the front office continues to have, but one that isn’t exclusively behind the scenes. LeBron has been in the league a long time and knows when to push buttons to get his desired outcome. With the Lakers this season, it has just required extra button-pushing.