Even with James and Davis, Do the Lakers Still Have a Systemic Problem?


Even though the Los Angeles Lakers finally finalised a deal to land Anthony Davis this off-season, there are still issues that persist.

While the Lakers were unsuccessful in landing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, it showed on a larger stage that the Lakers are still a franchise with significant flaws. This is not an overreaction, the Lakers, the team I love, who have given me so much joy, happiness. and memories over the years, do have a systemic problem.

Under one of the greatest owners in professional sports, Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers were considered the cutting edge. Dr. Buss knew that you had to build an image, a persona that would not only be seen league-wide, but world-wide.

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(Image/Clutch Points)

Jeanie Buss in most aspects is a good owner, she cares about the team in which her father bestowed onto her. He left the team in her capable hands because she fought for her position. Dr. Buss wanted to give the team purely to his sons but he saw Jeanie’s work ethic, her ability to rise up in male dominated industries, and become a success. With his sons being interested in different pursuits and none showing the passion to be considered for the job, he handed the responsibility to his daughter in hope that she would continue where he left off.

Jeanie has allowed her employees to feel empowered by giving them free reign of the basketball aspects of the franchise while she focuses on the business side, which has flourished immensely. However, the Lakers have been ran very much like a family business, which in a way can be good, but in many ways can be dangerous. Especially with the hiring and exit of Magic Johnson, who Jeanie brought in as being a very trust-worthy friend, but at the same time overlooking his lack of front office experience.

Bringing in Rob Pelinka, a renowned sports agent, was considered a good decision. The model for such move succeeding had been seen in the Bay Area with Bob Myers leading the Golden State Warriors to dominance in recent years. But yet again, the Lakers lacked significant front office experience with the hire.

Jeanie Buss and the Lakers were offered a lifeline by Hall of Fame player and executive, Jerry West, who was willing to leave his consulting position with the Warriors to be closer to home and to also assist a team close to his heart get back on track. West’s offer was met with a firm, yet respectful, no.

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(Image/Sports Illustrated)

The sign of a good leader is surrounding yourself with people smarter than yourself. People that will disagree with you, and ultimately help you find the best outcome. With Magic and Pelinka, you have two individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their professions and from an outsiders view, appear very hesitant to accept any advice even from within the organisation.

It became clearer with every move that the front office made that they were in need of help. An individual was needed who could add credible experience and allow them to become more nuanced in every aspect of front office life. They had that chance when Jerry West offered his services, however that was passed on. Many Laker fans wondered how long the Magic and Pelinka partnership would last, and the answer was not very long.

With the two previously having conducted business with arrogance and with little regard for their players, this showed how inexperienced and out of their element they truly were. This is not how you conduct business. Building an environment where your employees can flourish without fearing for their job security is universal. Saying to your players that trade talks are part of the game and they should act like professionals, is basically saying I’m going to fire you at some point in the near future but carry on as normal.

No player is going to perform at their peak under such speculation and stress, and rightly so. No player is going to be able to develop chemistry if more than half of the team is changed every single season. Consistency is key. Putting teammates together who will play together for longer than one season might actually help this season. The Los Angeles Clippers are a prime example of continuity being a good thing, especially last season.

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While the Lakers have now landed both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in back to back off-seasons, this gives the illusion that the Lakers front office is succeeding. But, simply put, the way the Lakers are doing business cannot go on much longer. With Magic Johnson and former Head Coach, Luke Walton, out of the equation, this significantly changes how the franchise will operate moving forward.

General Manager Rob Pelinka has a huge job ahead of him to prove that he is not worthy of being removed from his position. With the Davis trade, Pelinka bought himself some time. He has a small window to change the Lakers’ fortunes, to finally succeed. In addition, the moves made after missing out on Kawhi Leonard, he has shown an ability to fall on a plan B, and add talent around James and Davis. The franchise is moving in the right direction, for now. Let’s hope that it is sustainable.

By Jonathan Kiernan (@KiernanJonathan)