Tyronn Lue had a birthday. He is 42 years old. What to get him for his birthday wasn’t really complicated. He already has three rings, NBA titles, fame, and respect. After celebrating himself, a deal is being worked out and Ty Lue will be charged with figuring out the LeBron James puzzle. By default, he will be the face of a franchise who can’t seem to retain coaches, sign free agents that matter, nor get out of their own dysfunctional way.
Jeanie Buss liked that Ty Lue professed how much the Lakers mean to him. Jeanie is still a bit old school. Anything that harkens back to how her father talked about the Lakers makes her all warm and gooey inside. The Lakers are unique in the sense that their market and insane expectations are held up by their exceptional Hall of Famers and passionate fans.
Ty Lue is one of them, a former Laker for Life. He has been in the NBA Finals so many times you need two hands to count. For the record, it’s been 7 times for Ty Lue, either as a player or a coach or Director of Basketball Development. He’s been both a Celtic and a Laker. His up close experiences with Shaqulle O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and LeBron James has given him insight into the minds and practices of Hall of Famers.
Lue, a NBA journeyman who played for 8 NBA franchises, has stories to tell. Role players and elite athletes alike have had great influence on the once upon a time back up point. Lue understands the bench player, the superstar, the market, the overeager fan, as well as the can’t get into the game unless it’s garbage time NBA-er. He isn’t afraid to say what he feels, regardless of the stature of the athlete. One of the reasons he was coveted to coach LeBron James is because of his experience with James and his ability to coach a dominant athlete who presents difficulties, despite his otherworldly talent.
James is a human player and he needs to be held accountable. He needs to be put in check from time to time. He needs to own up to what he is doing wrong those times when he is being lazy, ineffective, disinterested and is bringing the team to a crashing halt. He can be moody and it is his coach’s responsibility to form a partnership with James. How the best player gets along with the coach tells everything about the team. So in that sense, Ty Lue, as a Laker hire is a great choice.
Lue is a former Laker and he gets the culture. Lakers love to hire versions of themselves to promote their mythology and Lue fits. Lue even has a story, the Allen Iverson step-over in the 2001 NBA Finals.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lue was a tough and gritty player. That is his exact style as a coach. He doesn’t pull any punches. But there is a downside in all this Lue was a no brainer talk. Free agents around the league will wonder if the LeBron whisperer is too much team LeBron.
Free agents will be skeptical. If they sign with the Lakers what kind of agency will they have as a player with Lue because of his relationship with LeBron. Does it mean that LeBron has more power than ever before? Lue is his guy. Where does that leave everyone else on the roster, particularly when they have an issue with how LeBron is playing?
LeBron James defense was awful this year, so much so Kyle Kuzma had to publicly force James into defending. Will teammates be able to voice their opinion of what James is not doing with Lue as a coach? Is Lue nothing more than James hype man? Or will the Brandon Ingrams of the world be able to speak the truth as they see it with Lue supporting them even if that means holding LeBron accountable?
Lue had a Lakers themed cake for his birthday. Because why not. The Lakers job is a dream for a kid from Oklahoma who had to claw and scrap and fight for everything he has been given. But the Lakers job isn’t a dream job, not by a long shot. Revered and respected Monty Williams, who came from the Spurs system, would rather go to Phoenix and manage the hysterics of cray-cray Robert Sarver than deal with the Lakers melodrama. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Gregg Popovich counseled Williams to avoid everything L.A. that isn’t Doc Rivers and the Clippers.
The dysfunction is epic, even for Lakers standards. Jeanie running things by Linda and Kurt Rambis before coming to a decision. SMH. Rob Pelinka having all the power, Games of Thrones-esque. No one talking about what is going on inside the gates the barbarians are trying to destroy. And all this with a free agent summer that matters to the organization like water matters to a shark.
LeBron asking for a trade isn’t off the table but the Lue hiring will probably shush him for a little bit. Lue can talk LeBron off the ledge. But the front office hasn’t yet shown they have the ability to put oars in the water and cut through choppy waves. The boat is wobbly.
But LeBron is still on board. And Ty Lue any day will have his Lakers turn at the wheel. But. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Kobe and Shaq ain’t coming through that door.
Luke Walton failed. Byron Scott failed. Mike Brown failed. Mike D’Antoni failed. Rudy Tomjanovic failed. Del Harris Failed.
The Lakers isn’t a good job anymore. It’s a job where you have to figure out how to prevent an earthquake from wrecking everything that made you happy at the beginning of things. Ty Lue has had tougher problems in his life. He can handle the Lakers, believe me. But convincing free agents to do the same, to put faith in the unseen, well that’s a whole different story.