Baxter Holmes of ESPN unleashed upon the world an inside look at the dysfunction in the Los Angeles Lakers organization Tuesday morning, and it hit with the explosive force of a fire at a gunpowder factory.
Holmes’ report served as a damning indictment of former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and current general manager Rob Pelinka, while managing to peel back the veil on just how destructive the Lakers’ relationship with star player LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, has been.
One former player said outright, “It’s f—ing crazy over there.”
James, when he signed with the Lakers in 2018, engineered the acquisition of a motley assortment of castoffs, head cases and comic-relief-in-a-sports-movie types — players like JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson.
“We all had the same reaction that the basketball world did, like what the f— are we doing?” one Lakers coaching staff member told ESPN. “Not only are we not getting shooting, but we’re also getting every basket case left on the market.”
“We were all confused,” a front office staffer said. “All of it made no sense.”
Making matters worse, if you thought LaVar Ball was bad for the Lakers, he’s got nothing on Paul.
According to Holmes’ report, Paul privately undermined Lakers coach Luke Walton at every opportunity, questioning his fitness to lead the team and even going so far as to campaign for Tyronn Lue — LeBron’s puppet coach in Cleveland — to take the reins.
Combine that with the infamous meltdown of team chemistry that accompanied Paul and James’ failed attempt to deal the entire Lakers roster to the New Orleans Pelicans to acquire Anthony Davis, and you have a recipe for dissent in Laker Land.
Yet through all this, Paul was allowed on the Lakers’ charter flights as a member of LeBron’s entourage, a move considered “highly unusual” in NBA circles.
As Holmes put it, ”Given those perceptions, one former Lakers player described Paul’s presence on the team charter as a ‘culture killer.’
“‘Coaches know Rich is trying to get them fired, and players know Rich is trying to get them traded,’ said one agent with ties to the Lakers, who called Paul’s presence on the plane ‘destructive.’
“Given Klutch’s access, rival agents — even those representing players on the roster — said they were wary of allowing young clients to join the Lakers, fearing they’d be recruited or poached.”
Or, at the very least, broken in spirit by playing for that dumpster fire of a franchise.
Of course, part of the problem was that Johnson and Pelinka had no front-office experience between them prior to taking their roles at the head of the franchise, which allowed the savvy Paul to run roughshod over them.
And part of the problem was the Lakers, in a desperate attempt to remain relevant as they haven’t won a playoff game since legendary owner Jerry Buss died in 2013, getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs that year and missing the playoffs every year since, thinking they could hand the keys to the franchise over to a 34-year-old player with nearly 60,000 combined regular-season, playoff and international competition minutes and magically compete for a title.
How bad was Paul’s overreach? He even complained to Adam Silver — who as NBA commissioner most decidedly does not have among his duties making coaching decisions for one NBA team — in an effort to get Walton fired.
More CRAZY news from Baxter Holmes🤣
— OneLuvLakers (@OneLuvLakers) May 28, 2019
Paul, for his part, denies that allegation about meeting with Silver, but he did cop to riding on the team plane, no doubt to the chagrin of the Lakers players not named LeBron:
— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) May 28, 2019
Holmes’ piece doesn’t even stop there. From Jeanie Buss’ friendship with Linda Rambis (wife of former Lakers player Kurt Rambis) that led to Linda being called a “shadow owner” — something neither Rambis nor Buss shies away from as a descriptor — to the Lakers’ antiquated notion of a “family business” preventing them from running the team like a modern NBA franchise, to the “backstabbing” between Pelinka and Johnson that led to the latter’s resignation earlier in May, there is enough drama for a new HBO series.
Meanwhile, the team is tied with the Knicks for the most losses since 2013, and with rumors flying around all over the place of New York acquiring one or more of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Davis this offseason, the Lakers — a team second only to Boston with 16 championships and with more playoff appearances than any other franchise in NBA history — might find themselves the worst team in the entire league over a seven-year stretch.
That’s an impressive run of futility that surely has old Jerry Buss turning in his grave.
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