The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2021-22 NBA season as Western Conference favorites and left it before the postseason even began, and as such, everyone is looking for a scapegoat to blame for their failure. Head coach Frank Vogel, two years removed from winning a championship, was the first major team figure to go. Reports of his firing came mere seconds after the season ended. Now, with Vogel gone, those who remain are squabbling over where to assign blame for the Russell Westbrook trade.
As Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus reports, multiple sources claim that the Lakers’ front office is internally blaming pressure from Klutch Sports, the agency that represents both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, for the acquisition of Westbrook. With this being the case, two important things must be noted:
- While star players can exert pressure on their front offices, they cannot actually make trades. The decision to trade for Westbrook ultimately had to be made by the Lakers’ front office. They were the ones who needed to be on the trade call. They were the ones that needed to work out terms with the Washington Wizards. They had the power to say no. They did not exercise it.
- Stars need leverage to exert that much pressure on a front office. Neither James nor Davis had much of it. James was under a guaranteed contract for two more seasons. Davis was for three. It is unlikely that either used the threat of leaving as a weapon in their battle for Westbrook. If they did, the Lakers badly misread the situation. The stars did not have the leverage to force the front office into anything. If the front office felt differently, it’s because they misunderstood the situation.
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What’s worse here is the notion that the front office feels the need to blame anyone at all. Ultimately, it and their best players should theoretically have the same goal: Win championships for the Lakers. That means getting on the same page and figuring out an effective way to work together, not playing the blame game in an apparent effort to protect their own jobs. If anything, the fact that they’re acting against the team’s best interests in the name of job security is as much a reason to reconsider their job security as their mismanagement of the roster. If Frank Vogel got fired for coaching this team, why aren’t GM Rob Pelinka and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis being held responsible for building it?
There’s no good answer for that, but at this stage, it seems apparent that James, Davis, Pelinka and Rambis are all going to be back next season. If that is going to be the case, all parties involved here need to find a way to rebuild a productive working relationship that doesn’t involve all of this gossip and backstabbing.