The end of the Lakers season has, predictably, brought many articles and referendums on how things went so wrong. The tell-all articles will continue to come leading up to and after the end of the season, but there isn’t much new to be said.
From top to bottom, this season was a failure for the Lakers on a number of fronts. How that is framed in the coming days and weeks will be of note with the childish finger-pointing likely to only continue as it had throughout the season.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest headlines and reports about the Lakers.
DeMar DeRozan’s meeting with LeBron and the Westbrook blame game
On Friday, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN released her version of a tell-all on the Lakers season. And while it largely included previously-known information with perhaps a spin on it, the biggest revelation was more details on DeMar DeRozan meeting with LeBron James and Anthony Davis this summer and more finger-pointing about the Russell Westbrook move.
According to sources close to the situation, DeRozan met with James and Davis at James’ house in Brentwood multiple times, and there was initial interest in constructing a sign-and-trade with San Antonio that would have likely involved Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and a draft pick. But because DeRozan was a free agent, the Lakers had to wait to act on that scenario. In the interim, talks with the Sacramento Kings for Hield and the Washington Wizards for Westbrook heated up before the NBA draft on July 29.
While timing factored into the choice of Westbrook or Hield (both available via trade before free agency) over DeRozan, sources close to the situation insist that James and Davis’ enthusiasm for Westbrook were what moved the process in that direction.
DeRozan has mentioned time and time and time again how much he wanted to be a Laker and how close the decision was. But it’s also another step in the front office attempting to distance itself from the Westbrook trade as if they didn’t sign off on the deal ultimately.
It doesn’t bode well for the future that the front office — or really anyone involved in this disaster of a season — has no interest in taking ownership of the failures this season. If the Lakers are going to head into this offseason and turn things around, someone is going to have to admit they did things wrong and be open to learning from their mistakes or the Lakers are headed right back down the same road.
And it doesn’t bode well that the front office is trying to distance itself from James and Davis when all the success they have had comes directly from the pairing.
Anthony Davis doesn’t think he’s getting traded
A bizarre reaction from fans in wake of this season is the desire to make a drastic trade involving one of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While it’s a vocal minority making the case, it’s been loud enough that Davis himself addressed the matter in a piece by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I can’t control those things,” Davis told ESPN after the Lakers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, which eliminated L.A. from play-in tournament contention. “That’s an upstairs thing. A Klutch, Rich Paul thing. My agency.
“I mean, my job is to go out and play basketball. Obviously I love it in L.A. If that’s something that they’re considering, then we’ll have a conversation about it. I don’t know what they’re talking about, what’s the plan.”
To be clear, Davis has no indication that the Lakers will trade him, but as a 10-year NBA veteran, he is aware of how the league works. “I mean, I don’t think they’re planning on doing anything [with me],” he said. “I don’t know, man. F—, I don’t know.”
While no one is denying this past season was frustrating, it’s very much a knee-jerk reaction to deal Davis or James. At the end of the day, Davis and James are going to be the best way for the Lakers to win a title, which is always going to be the goal so long as you can have James on the roster.
Frank Vogel credits Laker Film Room for helping him deal with being on hot seat all year
While his days as head coach are numbered, Frank Vogel has hardly been the sole reason for the Lakers struggles this year. As is the nature of his occupation, Vogel has been a lightning rod for the frustrations of the disappointing season.
How has he escaped the constant scrutiny and pressure during this season? The Laker Film Room, as he told Bill Oram of The Athletic.
“It’s not easy to shut it out,” Vogel said. “It’s not fun to have those reports hanging over your head or seeing it everywhere you look, especially so early in the season (and) after what we’ve been able to accomplish here. But to me, that pressure of expectation has been here since the day I signed on.”
Throughout it all, Vogel leaned on the support of his wife, Jenifer, who he said has “a great, great feel for people,” but Vogel also did what he has done throughout his career, which started with him as a video coordinator with the Boston Celtics: He threw himself into film study.
“To me the therapy is in the work,” Vogel said. “The film always makes you feel better. Whether you won big or lost big, all the answers are there.”
To his credit, Vogel has adapted more than he ever has in his career. The embracing of small ball goes very much against his principles as a coach, highlighted by his 2019-20 Lakers team.
It won’t be enough to keep his job in Los Angeles but it should be enough to help him get a job rather quickly once he hits the open market.