LeBron James openly said he wants to play with Anthony Davis. The Lakers negotiated with the Pelicans through the media. Los Angeles reportedly offered most of its roster – Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley – in various proposals.
Those talks sapped morale, sources say. Ditto for Magic Johnson’s post-deadline lecture about treating the Lakers’ young players “like babies.”
Pursuing Davis was always likely to cause some hurt feelings. Players don’t want to be just dangled in trade talks. Some downside was worth the opportunity to get an elite player like Davis.
But the Lakers mismanaged the situation into being worse than it had to be. Johnson’s post-deadline comments about the untraded Lakers were odd enough at face value. Now, we learn they were also damaging.
Johnson on Feb. 9, via Larry Lage of the Associated Press
“It’s a part of business, it’s a part of being a professional athlete,” he said Saturday. “I’m going to hug ’em and tell them that we got to come together and our goal is still in reach, which is to make the playoffs.”
Johnson on Feb. 10, via ESPN:
I’m not that guy. I’m not the guy who, “Ohhhh, I’m going to hold. I’m going to go up and hug guys.” I’m not that dude.
Quit making this about thinking these guys are babies, because that’s what you’re treating them like. They’re professionals. All of them. And this is how this league works. They know it. I know it. That’s how it goes.
I wouldn’t want my boss trying to trade me then publicly saying he’ll hug me then going on about how he won’t hug me. None of that is inspiring.
The good news for Johnson: He’ll have a chance to do better this offseason.