Los Angeles Lakers fans are protesting the team’s terrible decision-making, which means now is the best time to review those terrible decisions. I present the official 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers Dumpster-Fire Power Rankings.
7. The Ball family gets swindled by a Big Baller Brand executive
It was a novel idea for LaVar Ball to cut out the middle man and create a personal brand for his son, Lonzo, so they could reap the rewards of his fame rather than share them with Nike. It was not such a great idea to hire a guy who spent five years in prison for defrauding investors of millions of dollars to run the company.
Granted, the Balls reportedly had no idea that Alan Foster had been in prison for money laundering and mail fraud just before he befriended them in 2009, but they probably should have looked into him a little bit before handing him a 16.3 percent stake in the family business, or once the company earned an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau for failing to fulfill orders, or when they failed to properly pay employees, or at some point in the five months that passed between their lawyer suggesting Foster stole $1.5 million from them and them actually firing him.
Lonzo turned down five-year endorsement deals that reportedly could have reached as high as $20 million around the time the Lakers drafted him second overall in 2017. I have my doubts Big Baller Brand is worth anywhere close to that two and a half years later, and whatever the number is, it’s apparently $1.5 million lower than it should be. The Lakers’ failures have little to do with the Ball family’s business acumen, but they did hitch the future of the franchise to this wagon.
6. LeBron James can’t find a co-star for “Space Jam 2”
This is just sad. The Lakers have now put their rebuild on hold for several years in hopes of having enough cap space to lure multiple max salaried free agents to Los Angeles. They successfully landed LeBron, but you know what isn’t a great omen of his ability to recruit a Lakers co-star? He can’t even find someone for his movie.
“Space Jam 2” is reportedly set to begin filming next month, one day after the scheduled end of a Lakers-less NBA Finals, and as far as I know (which it is to say as far as I interpret the IMDb listing), LeBron’s biggest co-star is Shawn Bradley.
We have heard conflicting reports about why LeBron cannot find another star to act alongside him. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested it was because nobody wants to be posterized on film by LeBron, and the Hollywood Reporter implied it had more to do with conflicting interests with respect to shoe contracts. Because we all know Nike has a short list of NBA endorsers that only includes Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons and many dozens more.
It does not help that a number of big-name players have also turned down the opportunity to serve as LeBron’s co-star on the Lakers, turning down free-agency meetings, leaving them off their preferred lists and wanting to avoid the drama.
5. Lonzo tries to get unauthorized ankle surgery
Don’t worry. Things get weirder. At the behest of Foster, who four months earlier was the subject of an email to the Balls that read, “Urgent - $1.5 million Dollars Missing,” Lonzo nearly had unnecessary ankle surgery without the Lakers knowing.
The Lakers reportedly learned of the Ball family’s plan when Lonzo informed general manager Rob Pelinka that he was in Ohio for the unauthorized procedure. Pelinka, to his credit, informed Lonzo that not only was this a terrible idea, but that the Lakers could void his contract if he went through with it. Lonzo has since fired his agent and sued his former business partner, so things are looking up for the Lakers.
4. Magic Johnson surrounds LeBron with a bunch of scrubs
OK, maybe it’s unfair to call Rajon Rondo a scrub. He is a champion and a four-time All-Star, and he wasn’t all bad this season, save for that one time he punched Chris Paul in the face and the other time he chose a courtside seat over a spot on the bench with his teammates. Still, Magic thought it was a good idea to pay Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a combined $21 million to leave LeBron with minimal space to operate successfully.
At least Magic rectified this by trading Beasley, along with promising 22-year-old center Ivica Zubac, for two pointless months of Mike Muscala. Oh, wait, Jerry West reportedly laughed at the Lakers’ expense when Magic made the offer unprompted.
Speaking of which:
Jerry West vs. Magic Johnson pic.twitter.com/Nl5T7Lt3Vg— GlassHalfFultz (@pickuphoop) March 21, 2019
I can’t believe we’re only at No. 4 on this list.
3. Magic resigns without telling his boss
Hey, you know how Lonzo — a 21-year-old with limited life experience — almost had surgery without telling his boss? Now, get this: Magic — a 59-year-old with decades of experience — stepped down as team president in an impromptu press conference before the last game of the season without telling his boss. Or his coworkers. Or his employees. This is the sort of top-down functionality you want.
It is a good thing LeBron has his own show to tell us all about the dysfunction.
It is hard to say whether the best part about this is that Magic completely blindsided Jeanie Buss, Pelinka and LeBron despite meeting with all three extensively in the days and hours before his announcement, or that his list of reasons for resigning included a desire to counsel opponents and tweet more.
The only reason this does not fall higher on this list is that the Lakers may actually benefit from his resignation and the rest of us definitely benefit from his Twitter feed.
The eastern conference second round matchups, Raptors vs. Sixers and Celtics vs. Bucks, will be some of the best in history. You can’t pick a favorite because the teams are so evenly matched.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 25, 2019
2. The Lakers lowballed Tyronn Lue and lost their preferred coach
It must be refreshing for Lakers fans to know the first order of business since Magic stepped down is going smoothly. Another reason Magic may have stepped down is because of a disagreement over coach Luke Walton’s future, so Buss and Pelinka fired Walton instead. Two coaching candidates immediately emerged: Monty Williams, who chose the dysfunctional Phoenix Suns over the Lakers, and Lue, who won two titles as a player with the Lakers and coached LeBron to a championship in Cleveland.
The Lakers and Lue reached an impasse for a variety of reported reasons, chief among which was their failure to offer a competitive salary and contract length. Lue was “insulted” that they tried tying his tenure to the three years left on LeBron’s deal. NBA champion, current ESPN commentator and prospective general manager Chauncey Billups called the offer “disrespectful” and “pitiful,” which isn’t great.
Lue also reportedly didn’t like the idea that the Lakers tried forcing Jason Kidd on his coaching staff, which makes sense, since Kidd has committed countless coaching sins and undermined authority at his two previous coaching stops.
It is perhaps no surprise that we learned through this latest ordeal that Kurt Rambis and his wife, Linda, are advising the Lakers on their coaching search, which, again, is like hiring Ja Rule to run your next music festival. The good news is, whomever the Lakers hire now, we know for sure he or she is at least the team’s third choice.
Kurt Rambis rolled up a 32-132 record in Minnesota, went 9-19 as an interim coach in New York, floated the "maybe Kristaps is a small forward?" test balloon, liked a porn tweet, deleted his account mid-denial that he liked the porn tweet ... and *has grown more powerful.*— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) May 8, 2019
1. The failed Anthony Davis coup
Rich Paul, the longtime agent for LeBron who began representing Davis this past summer, broadcast the New Orleans Pelicans star’s trade request roughly two weeks before the league’s deadline, $50,000 fine be damned. This came not long after James said it would be “amazing” and “incredible” to play with Davis, which led several small-market general managers to file complaints about tampering.
The ensuing fortnight brought countless reports of mutual interest between Davis and the Lakers. Because the chief competitor in the Davis sweepstakes, the Boston Celtics, could not make an in-season offer due to a collectively bargained contract rule, anyone reading the tea leaves could tell this was a deliberate attempt to steer the superstar to the Lakers. It is impossible to believe the Lakers, LeBron and Paul did not enter this negotiating window without a clear understanding of this.
Naturally, the Pelicans opted to wait until this summer, when they can attract the best possible offers for Davis. As a result, Magic accused New Orleans of acting in bad faith, and Buss called reports of her team’s real trade offers “fake news,” accusing rivals of planting those stories in an attempt to ruin her team’s chemistry.
The Lakers did a fine job of fracturing the locker room on their own. LeBron reportedly stopped fully engaging with the young Lakers prior to the trade deadline, and then called them out for being distracted by the trade rumors after it. As a result, the young Lakers reportedly lost trust in LeBron, believing he was trying to orchestrate their exit, and then called him out for his “inconsistent body language,” which included slumped shoulders, sideway glances and lackadaisical defense.
Meanwhile, New Orleans is reportedly dead set on never trading Davis to L.A.
Other than the fact that the team president shockingly stepped down, the team’s preferred coach stunningly walked away, the team’s best player and his young teammates are at odds, and the team’s prospective trade and free-agency options are wary of the raging fire, it’s hard to imagine why Lakers fans are protesting.
Lakers fans are making their voices heard at the STAPLES Center 😤 pic.twitter.com/PSqtKqKXfl— SLAM (@SLAMonline) May 10, 2019
The fact that Lakers fans are chanting, “No more Rambis!” in 2019 is too perfect.
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