If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Rob Pelinka in his time in the front office for the Lakers, it’s that he loves to go star-chasing. First, it was LeBron James, then it was Anthony Davis before turning Kawhi Leonard in the same summer.
A number of other stars have popped up as targets of the franchise in the years since. Winning a title with only two stars never deterred him from his belief and, eventually, Russell Westbrook became that guy.
Arguing the merits of whether he qualified then or now as a star is fair but the point is Pelinka viewed him as one and offered up a trade package as such. Teams built around three stars have won titles in the past, from the Celtics in the late 2000s to the more famously known Heatles with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Interestingly, it was that Miami model that the Lakers were aiming for when they traded for Westbrook. On our latest episode of “The Anthony Irwin Show,” Jorge Sedano of ESPN joined to discuss Pelinka’s thinking in making a deal for Westbrook.
”It also kind of plays into the narrative, for better or worse, that Rob Pelinka loves him some stars. And the Lakers love them some stars. And Russ is a star, and they felt they had a Big 3. So much so that I heard from a bunch of different people in different camps that they were like ‘oh, we’re gonna recreate the Big 3 in Miami.’ And I was just like ‘OK.’ Like Dwyane Wade in Miami, the last year was hurt, and even in the second-to-last year was hurt some, but Russell Westbrook is not Dwyane Wade. Ever. The only thing they have in common is their reckless style on offense and that they weren’t great shooters. But Dwyane Wade was a much better defender from the beginning to the end than Russell Westbrook has been... So I already had my reservations in regards to that, but that’s the way they were billing this thing. As a Big 3. And that’s everyone. That’s the organization, that’s everybody was billing it that way, and then that thing went south very quickly.”
Even the most optimistic of fans could not have possibly thought the Lakers with LeBron, AD, and Russ would resemble anything close to the Heatles. For one, LeBron is a far different player now than he was then.
More importantly, Westbrook is nowhere near the player now that even a less-than-100% Wade was then. This version of Westbrook is the Dwyane Wade you order on Wish. And even then, they aren’t the same players even at their primes.
There just wasn’t a scenario in which this was going to work anything as those Heat teams did. It’s woefully misguided thinking.
Another interesting tidbit from Sedano in the podcast is how much input Pelinka had on making the deal. Reports previously indicated that it was Klutch Sports that preferred the deal for Westbrook, not Pelinka.
But Sedano notes that Pelinka was not an innocent bystander in the situation by any means.
“He did not put a gun to anyone’s head to make the deal for Russell Westbrook. If you had someone in charge who felt like that was not the move to make, that’s their duty and their job as the steward of the franchise to say ‘hey, we don’t think that’s a good idea.’ And then lay out basketball reasons why you don’t think it’s a good idea. And if that’s the case, then he probably comes to the realization (of) ‘ok, maybe not.’”
It clearly wasn’t just one side that wanted to make this deal. As much pressure as Klutch may have put on the front office to make a deal, Pelinka had the final say regardless.
But while it was a collective effort in trading for Westbrook and creating the problem, it is not a collective effort in refusing to fix the problem. LeBron James has repeatedly pleaded for help. Anthony Davis recently agreed with him. But it’s Pelinka and the front office that refuse to actually make a deal.
It’s an entire mess of a situation that had flawed logic from the start and a refusal to admit as much and fix the issue in the aftermath.