With All-Star weekend officially in the rearview mirror, it's time for the Lakers to get back to work.
All season long, the team has struggled to stay competitive in the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook, who joined the team in July, has been at the center of blame and criticism.
But things could have been different for the Purple and Gold had they made a different decision in the offseason. DeMar DeRozan was on the table before one factor in negotiations turned them the other way.
Ramona Shelburne provided details on NBA Today:
"There were choices they had in the offseason between Buddy Hield, Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan. The Lakers chose Westbrook and LeBron and AD were part of that choice. One of the other choices was DeMar DeRozan, and the Lakers were unwilling to go to 3 years for a contract."
DeRozan seemed to be an ideal fit for the Lakers. He's a guy who can drive, shoot, and defend at a high level. As a more versatile scorer than Westbrook, he might have been a better fit.
At one point, the Lakers must have felt the same way, as DeRozan himself has said he thought his arrival to the franchise was a "done deal."
I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out. I was going to come home. The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.
But there’s always motivation. It may be just to come home and play in front of friends and family, competing against teams you grew up watching. There are all sorts of motivations that you carry and you try to channel that energy into the game. I find that in every game, but definitely coming back to your hometown, you want to play well and you have that motivation to put on a great show.
In the end, the Lakers' unwillingness to offer DeRozan an extra year is what drove them to make their biggest mistake of the LeBron James era.
And now, with Russ locked in for at least another season, there doesn't seem to be an easy way out.
The best the Lakers can hope for now is that the powers of LeBron James are enough to propel the team to a strong finish in the playoffs and into the summer, where they'll have a chance to re-tool and rebuild their clearly broken roster.