Several days have passed since the Los Angeles Lakers failed to make a move at the trade deadline. However, that hasn’t stopped the discussion around the state of the franchise concerning LeBron James‘ future.
The Lakers have become engulfed in drama as the team is playing well below championship expectations. The star forward hasn’t cooled the flames with his remarks during the NBA All-Star break festivities in Cleveland. James may have just sent a subtle shot at general manager Rob Pelinka and the front office.
Lakers stay quiet at NBA trade deadline
In the weeks ahead of the trade deadline, the Lakers’ struggles fueled the notion that the franchise wanted to shake up the roster.
Star point guard Russell Westbrook sat first on the chopping block while Los Angeles gauged the market for interest in Talen Horton-Tucker. However, Pelinka couldn’t work out any moves before the trade deadline that would have provided a much-needed spark.
Shortly after that point, reports surfaced that the Houston Rockets offered John Wall, but the Lakers turned that down. Meanwhile, the team chose against taking on Christian Wood due to avoid the team salary falling into the luxury tax.
Pelinka added another troubling wrinkle to the situation after publicly lying that he had constant communication with LeBron James and Anthony Davis throughout the process.
“I’ve been very collaborative with LeBron and Anthony [Davis] our captains in terms of shaping our roster and moves that make sense. And that continued with this trade deadline,” Pelinka said via Dan Woike of The LA Times. “And you can’t force another team to present yourself with a deal that is going to make your team be better. That’s up to them.
“And throughout this process, we had different things we looked at and like I’ve done in the past had conversations with LeBron and Anthony about it and I would say there’s alignment here. And that’s all that matters.”
The lack of movement added more internal drama, as the Lakers players reportedly expected roster change. Now, the four-time league MVP has sent a subtle shot at Pelinka and the front office.
LeBron James subliminally throws shade at the Lakers’ front office
LeBron James has never been shy about expressing his feelings about other matters across the league.
Beyond the chatter concerning a possible Cleveland Cavaliers return before his retirement, James delivered comments that saw him unexpectedly voice huge praise for Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti. After being asked about Josh Giddey, who recently became the youngest player to record a triple-double, the 37-year-old boasted about Presti.
“But the MVP over there is Sam Presti. He’s the MVP,” James said. “I mean, Josh Giddey is great. But Sam Presti, I don’t understand this guy’s eye for talent. He drafted KD [Kevin Durant], Russ [Russell Westbrook], Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Josh Giddey and the list goes on and on and on.
“This guy is pretty damn good.”
The list of talent that Presti has added in Oklahoma City is remarkable, but James certainly knows what he’s doing. Although he is genuinely impressed, his words send subtle shade at Rob Pelinka and the Lakers’ front office.
Horton-Tucker has shown flashes of promise, while Austin Reaves has proven to be quite the steal as an undrafted prospect, but there isn’t much beyond that. The Lakers were never going to build a team directly through the draft, especially after the trade for Anthony Davis that required moving their young talent and three first-round selections.
More than anything else, James is bothered that Los Angeles didn’t make any moves regardless of how handcuffed the team was due to limited league interest.
Los Angeles now under tremendous pressure to keep LeBron James happy
The Lakers sit proudly that LeBron James earned his 18th All-Star game selection, but the media circus around All-Star weekend has sprouted concerning chatter.
The four-time league MVP opened Pandora’s box by indicating he could return to the Cavaliers. His remarks fuel speculation that he could leave the Lakers after his contract expires following the 2022-23 campaign.
James may be leaving his options open, but that puts the Lakers into the spot of remaining a desirable location. The front office’s questionable decision-making has led to the team playing well below NBA title contention.
The pressure is on the franchise, or James could depart as soon as the summer of 2023.