LaMarcus Aldridge, because he has a house in Los Angeles because it is a wonderful city to have a house in, and because he is a free agent, met with the Los Angeles Lakers first once the NBA’s free-agency period began. The Lakers showed up with coach Byron Scott, part-owner and president of basketball operations Jim Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak, TV analyst and Basketball Hall of Famer James Worthy, Lakers president and president of business operations Jeanie Buss, and shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Between the various phases of that group’s Lakers career, they’ve collected 41 total individual championship rings.
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As soon as the meeting ended, Lakers sources relayed to any reporter who would listen that the discussion went swimmingly with Aldridge, that the 30-year old All-Star was encouraged by the Lakers’ plan, and that they were still in consideration to give him a max contract and turn him into a Laker.
Then the afternoon hit.
Lakers didn't make strong impression in Aldridge meeting, sources say. Spurs can close on him. LMA expected to make decision fairly soon.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 1, 2015
LaMarcus Aldridge will not be joining the Lakers, The Times has learned. They were a 50-50 choice but he disliked bball part of presentation— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
Aldridge was floored in a good way by Houston's analytics, on-court projections in their presentation. Not so with the Lakers.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
More LMA: He and Kobe didn't quite gel. It's a little vague, but Aldridge apparently didn't quite get answers from Kobe he was seeking.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
Kobe spoke for about three minutes in the presentation, said he envisioned LaMarcus Aldridge working with him the same way Pau Gasol did.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
The Lakers, like it or not, need to beef up their bball analytics. They've fallen behind there, stuck in old-school way of thinking.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
And hit again by the above-mentioned author:
“Aldridge considered the Lakers to be part of a "two-horse race" with the San Antonio Spurs and "wanted to be wowed" but was actually turned off by the lack of analytics on the basketball side of their presentation, according to the person.”
And all of Twitter laughed, and laughed, as the Lakers sat holding their salary-cap space for the second season in a row, and third straight offseason with a failure to land a star. And after weeks of prepping (some) local media with the idea that the waves of Malibu and a max deal would be enough to convince a star, the Lakers sat watching as Kevin Love agreed to terms in freezing Cleveland, Jimmy Butler agreed to terms in freezing Chicago, all while Aldridge mused offers from (much) better teams in Texas and Phoenix.
Not that they’d have the space to sign all three, but a frontcourt featuring Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge would make a rather fantastic triptych. All three have met with the Lakers in consecutive summers, selling them on max deals and 72 and sunny, and all three turned down the Lakers’ proposals. If the Los Angeles Times’ report is correct and Kobe Bryant attempted to compare Aldridge’s potential time in LA with that of Pau Gasol’s, then you can see why LaMarcus wasn’t won over with the basketball end of the proceedings.
The Lakers traded for Gasol in his prime back in 2008, and though the two remain friends Bryant routinely looked off the big man both within the structure of the low post-heavy triangle offense, and in the seasons that followed. And that was a different Kobe Bryant back then, capable of dominating games, not about to turn 37, routinely failing to finish seasons.
As far as the culture of Los Angeles?
Unless you are dropped from mars. Big market cities do not have to sell themselves. Every player has played in that market over 10-15 times.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 1, 2015
NBA athletes who play out of Los Angeles spend half of their season on the road. It must be absolutely wonderful to decamp from a road trip at your beachfront condo in Los Angeles at 3 AM on a Monday after returning back from a grueling road trip, but with player salaries skyrocketing the home base doesn’t mean a heck of a lot any more.
Aldridge already has a place in Los Angeles. Kevin Garnett has had one in Malibu for the majority of his NBA career. Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose live there for most of the offseason, as does Kevin Love. Players can get their El Lay time in no matter which uniform they wear during the basketball months.
There’s also this idea:
Too easy to blame @kobebryant for LMA bad pitch..he barely spoke..this is about organizational failure to convince players they can thrive— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) July 1, 2015
Laker official quickly defends Kobe, who wasn't contentious/abrasive like in meeting with Dwight 2 years ago: "Not his fault at all."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
To show up to a persuasion session with Byron Scott – the coach who has put together one of the worst four-year winning percentage runs in NBA history at his last two stops – might not be a winning idea.
Players can see how an opposing team reacts to its coach, they know what they have to prepare for (or not have to prepare for) before a game against that coach, and they might not always have the best opinion of said coach. Throw in the perpetual Buss family weirdness and Kupchak’s frustrations in the five years since the Lakers last won a title, and that may not mean as much as the Kobester’s presence.
And the Lakers, through it all, remain oblivious:
Lakers are "stunned" to hear how coolly their presentation was received by LMA. I spoke to 3-4 folks last night who felt good about it.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 1, 2015
At some point, though, can we give LaMarcus Aldridge a little credit?
It would be fun to wear that uniform. It would be incredibly interesting, just as a basketball junkie, to hear what, exactly, one of the weirdest organizations in sports has planned for its future. And even if Kobe Bryant has suffered three consecutive season-ending injuries, it’s gotta be something to be in the same room as a future Hall of Famer tells you he wants to play alongside you in what could be his final season.
The Lakers and Kobe could have nailed the pitch, though, and Aldridge should have still walked away. The Lakers are a mess, currently. They’ll have a rookie point guard, a prospect who missed all but 14 minutes of his rookie season last year and also plays Aldridge’s position, and Kobe. LaMarcus Aldridge, who is about to turn 30, never should have given this team an audience.
We’ve discussed here how the Lakers should eventually turn it all around after one more stinko year, so LMA may have just done them a favor. What is assured is that, for whatever reason you want to choose for the Lakers losing out on his services, LaMarcus Aldridge just did himself a huge favor.
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