In the month of May, Rob Pelinka, Jeanie Buss, and an assortment of characters in (and not in) the Buss family were blindsided when Monty Williams turned them down. He chose the Phoenix Suns whose owner is no picnic to work for. But at least with Robert Sarver you know the crazy you are getting. With this crew, anything and everything is possible.
After the Monty humiliation, Ty Lue dropkicked the Lakers 3 year offer into the stratosphere, as he should have. For most, if would have been a come to Jesus moment, a time for accountability and reflection…but nah. This is the Lakers.
Here is what they did wrong. First with Monty. They didn’t do their homework. Monty is a disciple of Gregg Popovich. After the tragic death of his wife, Pop told Monty to come to San Antonio for as long as he needed. He could be on the staff until he was ready to resume his career. Pop is a mentor to Monty and has never minced words about how he feels about the Lakers hubris. He probably warned Monty about their deterioration. Sarver is no prince of the Phoenix city but he is just one rich and clueless man. You know your enemy. But who is running things in El Segundo?
Ty Lue was a good second option but a 3 year deal is two-faced. It really is a 2 year deal since that last year the coach is lame duck and irrelevant. It is the kind of offer that is commensurate with a coach who doesn’t have a lengthy history. I thought the Lakers eroticize their own? The contract was a red flag. The Lakers saw Lue as an option, not a priority.
The bottom line is always the bottom line with the Buss family. Their arrogance is catastrophic. They live in a bubble. They assume the Lakers job is a must get. It is symptomatic of a family run business, a family that makes all of their money off of the Lakers and receives all of their notoreity from that same Laker monster. It makes it so they are unable to see the forest for the trees, that coaching the Lakers is more hassle than it is a reward. No one on the roster outside of James has any kind of experience or consistency, and you are betting on everything falling perfectly in a world that is often imperfect.
Whoever takes the Lakers job is taking a risk. The net may just have a hole in it. The Lakers may not sign a significant veteran. The young kids may just be who they are right now. Rob Pelinka may not be able to scout talent, organize trades, negotiate fair salary, and maintain flexibility while putting a competitive product on the floor. What the Lakers cannot do is what they are very good at doing, leaning on their arrogant birthright, a we are the Lakers kind of myopia as a strategy.
The last time the Lakers were in the playoffs Dwight Howard was on the team. And so was Chris Dunon. And Earl Clark. And Andrew Goudelock. Six years ago, the Lakers were trotting out players who are no longer in the league today. Of the 15 players on the roster in 2013, when the Lakers lost to the Spurs in four games, only a forever injured Howard, an old Pau Gasol, and an always traded Jodie Meeks are still playing.
That’s the kind of organization the Lakers are. Forget the past, live in the present. They miss on talent. They cobble teams together that have zero shot at winning anything, and then they arrogantly pound their chest as if they have accomplished something. They are privileged but don’t understand you don’t earn privilege, it is handed to you. They act like they are doing something, that they have succeeded when it was their father who succeeded, not them. They are riding on a powerful western wind.
Dr. Buss died on February 18th, 2013. Since that time the Lakers have been in 4 playoff games and have won 0. They have had two All-Stars. An aging Kobe Bryant whose appearance in the annual game was solely based on his legacy and not his merit. And LeBron James. They have had 4 lottery picks. Julius Randle. D’Angelo Russell. Brandon Ingram. Lonzo Ball. Ingram is who everyone is waiting for. They romantically assume he is going to be something special because of his measurables. Lonzo is polarizing. Either you see his value or you think he is overrated. His future depends on the new coach and how he sees Lonzo’s fit.
As for that new coaching hire:
Lionel Hollins is good enough. He coaches defense, is good with young players, was a defensive presence when he played with the Sixers. He communicates well and all his teams play hard. He demands it. Same with Frank Vogel. I don’t know why Mike Woodson is on that list except he is a defensive coach. And Juwan Howard is just window dressing. He’d be a nice mentor for Brandon Ingram but the Lakers are adamant they want a veteran presence. The one thing the Lakers have right, the only thing, is they cannot waste the last three years of LeBron James.
That was the point of Ty Lue. But Lue took exception at being the LeBron whisperer. The Lakers hit a Ty Lue nerve and it said as much about him than about the Pelinka-ites. That he is no longer a Laker problem is something the Lakers lucked into because of their own stupidity and arrogance. No more Cleveland West. The new coach can now be responsible for the legacy of LeBron James while enfranchising the young stars. Development doesn’t have to be an afterthought.
Jerry Buss died of cancer. So much has gone wrong since then. It’s hard to take anything these Lakers do and call it excellence. It is more about hoping for a miracle. Yes, this was the organization that won the coin flip and drafted Magic Johnson, that bet the house that Kobe Bryant would be best ever, that traded for Shaq. But this was the organization that hired Mike Brown because they liked his interview. They chose Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. They planted their flag on the Byron Scott tough love beach. They thought hiring Luke Walton meant being the Warriors and beating the Warriors. They traded D’Angelo Russell who then became an All-Star. They let Julius Randle walk. They didn’t draft De’Aaron Fox. The list goes on and on and on, their fumbles.
A wise man, as the saying goes, learns from other people’s mistakes. An average man learns from his own mistakes. But a fool- and this is where the Lakers come in, a fool never learns.