The Lakers front office is reportedly blaming LeBron James and Anthony Davis internally for acquiring guard Russell Westbrook during the offseason ahead of the 2021 season, according to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus.
What looked like the perfect team—one that featured James, Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard and more—on paper turned out to be one with chaos, confusion, no postseason appearance and 49 losses.
James and Davis, who are represented by Klutch Sports Group, lobbied heavily to the team’s front office to acquire Westbrook. In doing so, the franchise sent key contributors from its championship-winning team in the Bubble and the 2020-21 season—Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell (who came from Clippers in the Bubble to the Lakers, then to Washington and now plays for Charlotte), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—to Washington while earning two second round picks and the No. 22 pick in the 2021 NBA draft.
The failed project from James and Davis advocating for Westbrook did not pay off. However, as reports surfaced throughout the regular season of blaming Westbrook for the Lakers’ turmoil, the latest reported news between the team’s front office and its two stars stem from the overarching discussion that star players have a voice in the direction of a franchise.
In Brooklyn, Nets guard Kyrie Irving’s recent comment opened the door to conversation surrounding star players’ thoughts on its team’s plans going forward.
“When I say I’m here with Kev [Durant], I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks], and just our group of family members that we have in our locker room, in our organization,” Irving said after the Nets’ Game 4 loss to the Celtics.
In Los Angeles, no player’s voice is heard more than James’s. However, due to the Westbrook project not living up to expectation, the Lakers must still consider the opinions of their stars, but ultimately make the best decision for the franchise. When the Lakers were eliminated from play-in contention earlier this month, Davis planned to meet with James to discuss the offseason.
“Upstairs, me and him, talking about the season and what we’d like to see next season,” Davis said.
While the two will have their discussion, the final decision about the Lakers’ plan for the 2022 season will ultimately be left in the hands of the front office. However, that could mean that every goal from James and Davis’s vision for the team may not best align with the overall team outlook.
Davis cannot leave the Lakers until after the 2023–24 season and James is reportedly considering “playing out his contract rather than signing a two-year extension this summer” according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick.
With Westbrook’s future in Los Angeles still up in the air, James and Davis along with front office leadership must all be on one accord about the team’s vision heading into the 2022 season. Westbrook still has one year left on his current contract. He can remain with the team in the 2022–23 season or he can opt into his $47 million player option.
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