It's more than understandable that the Lakers want to clean house -- appropriate "house," that is -- after being swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of last spring's NBA playoffs. The Mavericks eventually went on to win the title, no damning loss in that respect, but to be swept and blown out by 36 points in the final game of Phil Jackson's coaching career? The Basketball Gods, as a penalty, will demand swift retribution.
I don't consider Laker owner Jerry Buss nor Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak (pictured above, right) to be amongst those saintly presences. So for those two, who have always seemed to have had it good more than they made it good, to dump longtime Lakers front office man Ronnie Lester (above, left) without the courtesy of a proper sendoff seems at best rash and at worst disrespectful. And yet, that's exactly how the Lakers got rid of Lester, a few weeks ago.
And a few days ago, he tactfully let loose to ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne:
"It's awful funny that the Lakers, one of the highest grossing teams in the league, could do this to their employees, just throw them out in the cold," he said.
I ask if there's any chance there has been a misunderstanding about what comes next. Teams have to tread carefully on any matter related to the lockout or risk huge fines from the NBA.
Lester said he thinks something else is going on.
"The Lakers have not done a good job in communicating that to anybody whose contract has ended," he said. "Obviously the Lakers don't want these guys back, don't want the scouts back, or they would've said something in that regard.
"So I don't think anybody is coming back. They've not treated people well in that regard."
I should note that Shelburne's column is a great read, and it's also about 90 percent full of Lester taking the high road, talking about other employees beside himself, and acting the better man.
This is also a guy that has been a Laker since the second Reagan Administration. Even if he's the guy that helped draft all those terrible players toward the end of the first round, or signed all the veterans who didn't work in the Triangle offense (oh, wait, that was Kupchak …), he deserves a better show towards the door than he received.
Clean house? I get it. Last May's debacle was the players' fault, but firing Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher just doesn't make basketball sense.
Treating a nearly quarter of a century employee like this? I'll let the Lakers answer for that next May. Assuming they let the players back into their building by then.
- Dallas Mavericks
- Ronnie Lester