The Los Angeles Lakers’ season couldn’t have strayed much further from the original plan and projections, and because of that, it’s looking like LeBron James will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
There are many moments to point to and wonder if that’s where it went wrong, but the extremely public Anthony Davis trade talks in early February seems to be a key turning point.
Since it became clear the Lakers wouldn’t be playing postseason basketball this year, many in the NBA world began playing the blame game. The larger consensus became that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were largely to blame due to poor roster construction.
Meanwhile, head coach Luke Walton has earned his fair share of criticism over rotations and in-game decisions. Right behind Johnson, Pelinka and James is where people start to blame James.
In part for his lackadaisical effort on both ends of the floor after returning from injury, but largely due to his openness about wanting to play with Davis, almost giving Johnson and Pelinka the go-ahead to trade the whole roster, via ESPN’s Zach Lowe:
LeBron is so powerful that separating him from any part of an organization is impossible. The midseason gambit to acquire Anthony Davis almost certainly doesn’t happen, or become so public, without at least LeBron’s tacit go-ahead. Those talks sapped morale, sources say.
If James had simply stuck to the team he had and not outwardly campaigned to get Davis, there may have been some more willingness to fight for James to help get him into the playoffs.
Of course, there are tons of other reasons the Lakers likely won’t be making the playoffs. The injuries to James, and then subsequently, Lonzo Ball, wrecked the team.
However, when the best player on a team unabashedly tries to trade the whole roster, there simply cannot be a good result, and that’s likely where James gets the most blame for this season’s failures.