LeBron James and Anthony Davis hold an enormous amount of influence over the Lakers‘ front office even by superstar standards. They played a major role in the Lakers landing Russell Westbrook and are consulted on virtually every move that Los Angeles makes. It, therefore, wasn’t surprising to hear from the team’s vice president of basketball operations, Rob Pelinka, on Thursday that when the Lakers chose not to make a move at the trade deadline, he said that there was “alignment” between himself and his two superstars.
“You can’t force another team to present yourself with a deal that is going to make your team be better. That’s up to them,” Pelinka said. “And throughout this process, we had different things we looked at and like I’ve done in the past had conversations with LeBron and Anthony about it and I would say there’s alignment here. And that’s all that matters.”
Now, here’s where things get complicated. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported on Friday that Pelinka’s statement about being in alignment with his stars was “totally false.” According to McMenamin’s source, “there was no conversation between Rob Pelinka, LeBron and Anthony Davis on Thursday,” and “there was no go ahead or okay to have inaction at the deadline.”
No matter how much discussion did or did not take place between James, Davis and Pelinka, it would be hard to believe that they were fully aligned because their interests aren’t necessarily aligned. Pelinka said Thursday that “ultimately we didn’t find a deal that had a net positive effect for the short term success of the team and the long term, and those are both things we consider,” but James is 37 years old. He doesn’t have time to think about the long-term future of the Lakers. He’s trying to win championships right now.
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Executives generally aren’t fully transparent about their moves or thinking because they don’t want to give away information that could later be used against them by other front offices. But McMenamin’s reporting only highlights just how dysfunctional this season has been for the Lakers. The synergy that once existed between their two superstars and the front office that builds the roster around them is seemingly eroding. Efforts the team is taking to hide that discord are failing miserably.
Whether or not the Lakers should have made a trade at the deadline is ultimately debatable. Whether or not James and Davis wanted the Lakers to make a trade probably isn’t. James has spent a career pressuring his front offices to improve whenever possible. Pelinka suggesting otherwise defies almost two decades’ worth of his best player’s history. McMenamin’s reporting seemingly confirms what we all suspected. The most important Lakers knew a trade wasn’t necessary, but the front office couldn’t find a good one.