The Los Angeles Lakers’ postseason hopes are officially over, the future seems bleak, and heads are likely to roll. Head coach Frank Vogel is widely expected to face a reckoning. The Lakers would like to find a way to offload Russell Westbrook, unlikely though that may be, after he almost surely opts in to his $47 million, final year option this summer.
Fingers can be pointed all around at a Lakers season that is a wreckage of the high hopes when the season began: At Russ, at Vogel, at Anthony Davis’ injuries, at a front office that put as ill-fitting a team as possible around their all-time great superstar.
But it is, ultimately, the fault of the person in the Lakers organization with the most say and the most power who is to blame — the one who used that sway to put into place all the elements that have led L.A. to where it now stands, with a failed season behind them and no clear path forward.
The Fall Of Lebron
The Catch-22 of LeBron’s all-time greatness has always been the out-weighted influence he’s exuded on a team. His wants have often been paramount to the plan, even his actual needs. But the juice has always been worth the squeeze. His call for player power in the NBA always had a sheen of success because he succeeded at every turn, regardless of how he wielded that power.
Yes, LeBron James is still a marvel, even at 37 years old. His 30/8/6 is astounding and means, with the right team, he can continue to be in the thick of NBA title runs. But he can no longer eclipse what he’s wrought off of it.
LeBron likes to refer to himself as King James.
But here’s the thing about royalty: The problem with powerful aristocracies included having power without a system in place to force accountability, responsibility and course corrections. That led to sycophants with too much influence, no bad news or candid advice flowing upward and rivals getting stronger and better because they were willing and able to do what was necessary rather than flattering.
Kings and queens make fine figureheads. But as rulers, in the long run, they’re much more likely to fail.
It’s time for the NBA’s king to accept that in order to retain his throne he needs someone else to govern his kingdom: A GM — Rob Pelinka, maybe, or someone else — who is fully entrusted with decision-making aimed at giving LeBron James what he needs rather than what he wants.
The Lakers are a mess. But all of it — Westbrook, A.D. ‘s very-predictable fragility, the lack of depth and defense, the lack of shooting, the entire makeup of the team — was a LeBron James production.
He’s to blame. And until he accepts it, and changes, and gets the help now even he needs, things aren’t going to improve for him or the Lakers.