In figuring out who is to blame for the Lakers’ underwhelming performance this season, the finger should be pointed in several places. Some blame should go towards the young guys, who failed to step up when the team needed them most. Some blame should go towards LeBron, who never quite seemed himself at any point in the season. Some blame should go towards Luke Walton, who could not keep the team together when things went sour.
Perhaps more than anyone, the blame should be directed towards Magic Johnson, who has made a couple of damaging decisions over the course of the regular season. Magic was the one who elected to let go of Brook Lopez and Julius Randle in exchange for Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley. Magic was the one who ultimately decided it was a good idea to offer up the entirety of their young players in exchange for Anthony Davis, and then somehow let that news go public.
It was also Magic Johnson’s comments after the trade deadline fiasco that destroyed what was left of the team morale.
“Parceling out blame is tricky, writes 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. Ditto for Magic Johnson’s post-deadline lecture about treating the Lakers’ young players “like babies.” LeBron’s eye-rolling on-court scoldings, a staple whenever he feels things sinking, did nothing to reverse any of that. Unbecoming, but not new.”
The “post-deadline lecture” comment is in reference to Magic Johnson’s quote earlier in the season about how he thought the media was treating the Lakers’ youngsters at the time.
“Quit making this about thinking these guys are babies because that’s what you’re treating them like,” Johnson said back in February. “They’re professionals. All of them. And this is how this league works. They know it, I know it — that’s how it goes.”
After a deadline full of rumor, speculation, and not knowing who would be leaving or going, that was the best Magic could offer up. No affirmation of belief, no reassurance in their talents. Magic pretty much said “it be like that sometimes,” and left the Lakers’ young stars to get over it.
While it is always wise for players to understand that the NBA is a business, how can any of these guys feel comfortable playing for a team that is unwilling to commit to them? They are supposed to play their butts off knowing they will probably be on another roster in 4 months. In case you have not guessed, that makes things a lot harder.
There is no denying their plan now. Clearly, Magic is not keen on entrusting the Lakers’ young core moving forward. Maybe that’s the right move, maybe it’s not, but letting all of that out in the middle of the season was probably not the smartest thing to do.