At this point, it’s well documented that among the perfect storm of things that blew up the Lakers season — starting with LeBron James‘ strained groin — the very public trade discussions between the Lakers and Pelicans about an Anthony Davis played a significant role. With a young core of players who had not seen their names in trade rumors before, it was mentally disruptive.
(Magic Johnson tried to throw the blame for the public nature of the discussions on the Pelicans, I’ll just say that all those leaks did not come from solely New Orleans.)
“Even some of the old guys were affected,” Rondo says. “I can’t say a name, but I remember me and the guy were on the bench for the Atlanta game right before the [All-Star] break. The guy was cussing and talking bad about the situation during the game. I was like: ‘Snap out of it. That shit is over with. We’ll get through it. As vets, we have to move forward and not focus on what the young guys are focusing on. Set an example.’ It was a little crazy to see a vet distraught over that.
“Me, I’m kind of numb to it. I was in trade rumors every year in Boston. Eight straight years. You can’t really relate to it until you’ve gone through it…
“Guys may have felt like, ‘Oh, I need to prove myself so I won’t be traded’ or ‘They’re going to trade me anyway.’ Each game you didn’t know what the mentality was for those guys: ‘Should I give my all to this organization that is about to trade me in two days?'”
That’s the past, Magic Johnson is out (although the rest of the Lakers management team is largely unchanged), yet the question remains did the Lakers learn from this mistake? Or, more accurately, the string of errors they made last season, starting with a roster constructed without enough shooting?
We’ll have a better answer to that around the end of July.