It’s not hard to recognize crazy, but we sometimes ignore the signs. We ignore them because even crazy can make you feel good. It could be laughing with you at a bar. Smiling with you on vacation. Sleeping with you in your bed. Making you dinner while you watch TV.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
When you become this comfortable with crazy, all of the red flags you saw before become a distant memory. You’ll even find yourself sticking it out with crazy, until you walk out for work one morning to see that your car has “I’M PREGNANT” keyed into it and say to yourself:
“Ohhh… Yeah, that was a bad idea.”
Because crazy only rests. It never goes away.
So, why would the Lakers think their franchise was any different from Cleveland or Miami? Why did I think things would be different this time around? It’s not like all of this dirty laundry was in a room somewhere, away from the public eye. We were all witnesses, after all.
The Lakers signed LeBron James because they thought they could handle LeBron James. And who could blame them? They were flying high, having just come off an off-season in which they had erased the mistake that was Timofey Mozgov’s contract, in a trade that also sent D’Angelo Russell packing for Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma.
“Looks like this new front office knows what they’re doing!” we all thought.
They bought out what was thought to be an immovable contract in Luol Deng, creating even more cap space to use in the upcoming summer.
“Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are geniuses!” we all exclaimed.
Jordan Clarkson and the near $26 million owed to him over the next two seasons were also moved, gifting the team two chances to ink multiple superstar free agents.
“Championships!” we all dreamed.
And so, having gone through off-season after off-season of striking out at the bar, the Lakers showed up to the 2018 free agency at 12:00 A.M. sharp, with a brand new tuxedo on and a wallet full of cash. They ordered a drink, eager to put it down and begin gabbing it up with the host of free agents, who never would have given them the time of day before.
“Make it two…” said a voice from over their shoulder.
The voice belonged to the free agent everyone had always called first. The one everyone had always bragged about getting a meeting with. The one only two other teams have gotten a chance to know. This same free agent, was now going out of his way, to meet with the Lakers. LeBron James wasted no one else’s time this summer, because he knew exactly what he wanted: He wanted to sign with the Lakers.
Although highly coveted, James is not without his baggage. He has plenty of blood on his hands, having left franchises in shambles with a flood of players’, coaches’ and team management heads rolling among a trio of rings. The Miami Heat appear to be the only team that has been able to tame him – by giving him everything that he wanted – but even they couldn’t keep him.
So, why would the Lakers be different?
Well, for starters, James sought them out himself, bucking the trend of teams taking turns swooning the King. His contract with the Lakers also mirrors the one he signed in Miami (four years), where things ran the smoothest for James.
The Lakers also have something the other two franchises lacked: Rings. And lots of them. With lots of other legendary players. Class acts such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, larger than life prima donnas like Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal, and even wack jobs like Ron Artest and Metta World Peace (see what I did there?). They’ve had plenty of practice dealing with – and winning with – an assortment of personalities throughout their history, surely James wouldn’t be any different.
How’s that going?
So far, it has followed the same story as any LeBron James team: Head coach Luke Walton has been terminated. President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson has resigned. The young core the Lakers boasted about so much last season were nearly all traded by the deadline. Now, General Manager Rob Pelinka and even owner Jeanie Buss – whose praises Lakers fans were singing not too long ago – are all being raked over the coals for this “royal” screw up of a season.
Who would replace them?
Well, Anthony Davis nearly single-handedly replaced Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart (veteran players were also rumored to be a part of this deal).
Is Davis that good?
No single player is better than five (Correction: Giannis Antetokounmpo is).
So why Davis?
Because that is who James was campaigning for. And while Davis is undoubtedly a talented player, it should also be noted that he is a client of Rich Paul, who represents James and Klutch Sports agency. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was just awful during his tenure with the Lakers, but was somehow awarded a one year, $12 million dollar contract, is a client as well.
I’m stubborn. I simply need more evidence James is doing what you’re saying he is doing
OK, well, look at the currently vacant head coaching gig. The first name out of everyone’s mouth to take the job was Tyronn Lue, James’ former coach with the Cavaliers, and whom he won Cleveland’s lone championship with. When Magic bit the dust, everyone suggested the Lakers throw money at Miami Heat exec Pat Riley, who, while also being a former Lakers coach/player, is also a known James cohort.
Well, wouldn’t hiring Riley be a good thing?
Potentially, but what did he really do in Miami? I mean, really? He cleared cap space so that Dwyane Wade, James, and Chris Bosh could all play together. These guys were going to do this anyways, it just so happened that Wade had the perfect landing spot in Miami, especially when compared to Toronto (nice city, but it’s not Miami) and Cleveland (absolute dump).
I will admit that clearing cap space certainly takes some special kind of wizardry, sure, but the Lakers have already proven to be pretty damned good at this. So, there would be absolutely no reason to go after Riley, in my opinion, other than to further appease James.
And it would appease James, because this has been his method of operation since the summer of 2010, when his powers were fully realized: Wherever he goes to make skyscrapers full of money, so do all of his friends.
And I guess I can’t really blame him. That’s actually kind of a noble and relatable trait, to be honest. If I were in that same position, with the power James has, I’d make sure all of my friends were employed, making millions of dollars, doing jobs that I helped create for them; However, all of this “good” that James does for his friends comes at the expense of the franchise that signs him.
Will the Lakers eventually follow suit?
As of this writing, none of James’ friends have joined him on the Lakers (outside of Caldwell-Pope). Lue’s name was mentioned, and negotiations were initiated, but the team ultimately didn’t hire Lue to replace Walton as their head coach. And good for them! It appears the franchise may have finally woken up from this trance James had them under. I personally think the negotiations with Lue may have snapped them back to life:
Lakers: “We are prepared to offer you a three year contract to come coach our team.”
Lue: “Three years? Nah, I’m going to need five.”
Lakers: “Well, LeBron’s contract is only for three more years. We don’t see why we would hire you for longer than that, since…”
Lue: “Well, why not?”
Lakers: “… Wow…”
Lakers: “… since we only need you… to coach LeBron? Holy shit, what are we doing?”
Lue: “If you’re not going to offer me five years, then I’m going to have to start listening to other offers. So, I hope you’re prepared to enter a bidding war for my services, because I have a championship on my resume, and…”
Lakers: “Look, Mr. Lue, this was a mistake. We thank you for your time, but…”
Lue: “But what?!”
Lakers: “Honestly, we wouldn’t even consider hiring you if we didn’t have LeBron on our team, and that’s ridiculous. Have a good day, and good luck on your future endeavors.”
People are actually suggesting the Lakers now do the unthinkable, and trade away their prized off-season addition, LeBron James, before things get worse (since James’ contract is without a no-trade clause). This could be especially risky considering that moving the centerpiece of your franchise is usually met with the idea that equal value cannot be attained. Such was the problem created when Shaq requested a trade back in 2004. There was simply no collection of players and assets to equal the worth of one Shaquille O’Neal.
But, I am of the belief that there are plenty of franchises who would tell the Lakers to go right to Hell with some of the offers they could create:
Lakers: “James for Antetokounmpo”
Bucks: “Fuck you”
Lakers: “James for Embiid”
76ers: “Fuck you”
Lakers: “James for Zion”
(Probably) Knicks: “Fuck you”
These one-for-one style trade ideas more than suggest that James is a tradeable asset, and – should the Lakers explore such a route – might consider themselves lucky in simply finding an agreeable suitor. Even I could never envision a scenario in which the New York Knicks would say no to a deal in which they receive LeBron James, but, here we are. Surely, the Lakers could find a deal involving multiple assets, perhaps even a draft pick, for three years of James’ services. They just have to decide how much of James’ shit they are willing to put up with before they leave all of his belongings in a box on their front porch.
Because, as of this moment, the Lakers organization stands alone in their front lawn, to stare at their once pristine purple painted and gold trimmed car – with a huge crown now etched into it – and wonder where it all went wrong.
The answer is, and always will be: You should’ve never fucked with crazy in the first place.
Follow me on Twitter, for more of my basketball/relationship analogies, as well as a few takes from this year’s NBA playoffs. I have to admit, once the second round began, I have been watching each and every game. I didn’t find it hard at all to avoid the entire first round of action, but I suppose that’s just further proof that we still don’t need eight of the sixteen teams currently allowed to participate each year.