Moore: Don’t Bet Against the Lakers (At Least Not Yet)

May 22, 2019 07:00 PM EDT

Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LeBron James

  • Expectations were high for the 2018-19 Lakers after acquiring LeBron James, but things have been a mess since then. They failed to make the playoffs and have had a ton of front office turnover.
  • Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) gives his thoughts on the current situation and what to expect in free agency and beyond.

It’s been a slow process, understanding just how warped the Lakers are. After hiring Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson, there was a honeymoon period followed by uncertainty. No one really knew what to make of it around the league.

Then came last summer and the big coup! LeBron James! They had signed the best player in the world. Lakers Exceptionalism was back. This was followed immediately by the Lakers signing… Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee? But we talked ourselves into it, because, after all, this was the Lakers and it was LeBron James.

In time, of course, that proved foolish. The young core showed great signs, but it was as the season got worse. LeBron’s injury caved the roof in on the season, the team’s malcontentedness at being involved in the Anthony Davis trade talks buckled the walls and the injuries to the young core dropped the floor out.

There were gurglings towards the end of the season. Swamp burps from the scuttling L.A. media pool about various issues. Front office tension. Uncertainty about 1) LeBron’s happiness with how things had played out and 2) just how much of an influence his agent, Rich Paul, and the rest of LeBron’s ‘camp’ were having on the team. Questions about the team’s chances of attracting another star or pulling off the Davis trade in light of the colossal backfire of the season.

Then came Magic’s resignation, which was shocking but not shocking enough to be out of left field. More like “wow, didn’t think it would actually make it that far” than “where did this come from?”

And then, of course, the floodgates opened. Leaked emails. Rumors of family friends being involved in the decision-making process. No replacement as President of Basketball Operations. Failure to hire Monty Williams. Success at hiring Ty Lue… just kidding! Failure to hire him, too.

And on the day Frank Vogel was supposed to be introduced as the new coach — on what was supposed to be a normal, happy day for the franchise (even if Vogel was the third choice)…

None of this is a good look. None of it. Not the season, not the Anthony Davis situation, not the Magic Johnson resignation, not the Rob Pelinka promotion, not the coaching search. Hiring Frank Vogel is a good move, but we’ll have to see him handle the massive power dynamics in play at Staples to have real confidence he can thrive.

And yet… none of it really matters.