Lakers Bet Big on Upside by Hiring JJ Redick as Coach

Lakers Bet Big on Upside by Hiring JJ Redick as Coach article feature image
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Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: JJ Redick

Can a podcaster be the man to take the Lakers back to the promised land?

The Lakers finally stopped messing around and officially hired JJ Redick on Thursday after weeks of speculation and … whatever happened with Dan Hurley.

Redick will be described as a podcaster after his successful media career with "The Old Man And The Three" opened the door for his time at ESPN and his podcast with Lakers star LeBron James.

But that introduction does a disservice to Redick, a star at Duke and a 15-year NBA veteran. Redick is as much a student of the game as anyone and he has a real passion for basketball.

If all that seems like lip service, bear in mind, many former players don't share that love. They'll spend more time at the golf course on off days than game planning.

A lot of that is because they've simply spent their whole lives in the NBA; it's all they know. But Redick has chosen to involve himself, to stay close to the game and try and learn as much as he can.

In that regard, Redick is a good hire. He'll be innovative with how to play the game and use the Lakers' personnel. He has the experience of being a young player who couldn't get off the bench (in Orlando), a highly paid role player on a contending team (with the Clippers) and the sage veteran trying to get his body through a few more years in the league.

That wealth of experience will help with relating to players, understanding playoff matchups and thinking critically about how to improve the team (which is so often a blind spot in coaching).

According to league sources, Redick has been the preferred coaching target of both head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Klutch Sports, which represents James and Anthony Davis.

There may have been some concern from various corners of Lakerworld — including those within owner Jeanie Buss' inner circle — about having the head of the front office and the agency that runs the team being hand-in-hand (and sometimes in a subtle power struggle).

Now, James' support can notoriously be fickle. It's one thing to share James' respect and talk hoops over a bottle of wine. It's another to deal with his insistence on how things should be when you have different ideas.

Ultimately, the question of how the team will respect Redick as head coach given his relationship with James is irrelevant since everyone on the Lakers understands that James runs the team (even at age 40) and everything follows from that.

It's entirely possible Redick is a visionary and a revelation as head coach. There were questions when Steve Kerr took the Warriors' coaching job after a post-playing-career in media. He's led the Warriors to four titles.

That has to be the furthest end of outcomes, but there's at least precedent and some similarities in the mindset and careers of both men.

The bigger problem is the Lakers. They're short on options to improve the team after finishing with a play-in tournament spot for the second year in a row and a gentleman's sweep in the first round this time.

Redick's hiring definitely improves the already high chances that James returns to the Lakers for what will be the final contract of his career.

Davis put in an All-NBA and All-Defensive Team season while logging 76 games, the most in his career. But following that up with a similar level of availability will be tough for a player consistently plagued by injuries.

(Several league sources have told Action Network in recent weeks that the Lakers are looking at center options in trades and free agency in part to try and help ease the physical toll on Davis after they spent many seasons getting him to commit to playing the 5.)

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The rest of the roster is … fine. There are solid veterans and some promising players with some room to grow. There's been a great deal of talk about a third star being the Lakers' target with LA's ability to use three picks in a deal this summer.

(Not extra picks, mind you. Just that they have access to their own picks again.)

But with most league insiders confident that Donovan Mitchell plans to re-sign with the Cavaliers, the options for upgrades are slim.

Redick is being tasked with a lot here. He'll have to develop some young talent — including potentially James' son Bronny if the Lakers draft him — navigate the end of James' career and try and compete for a title with the last gasp of this era.

The Celtics securing "Banner 18" and once again passing the Lakers only increases that pressure.

Can Redick navigate all those treacherous waters on top of the spotlight that comes with the job of Lakers coach while dealing with ongoing questions about the future of ownership's leadership? Will James stand behind Redick the whole way, or will this become another messy drama that plays out in public? Is Redick a revelation or a reach?

In the end, Redick is a big name that brings scrutiny and a lot of potential. That makes him a more attractive option for the world's most famous franchise than the other established but less flashy names like James Borrego or Kenny Atkinson.

The worst thing about Redick is his lack of experience. The best thing about Redick is he's a known unknown, a Schrodinger's coach. He could be amazing, or he could be doomed.

We'll find out how this latest Lakers drama ends over the next year as they attempt to once again hold the trophy.

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Doug Ziefel
Jul 22, 2024 UTC