Somehow, things have only gotten worse for the Los Angeles Lakers since Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as team president in an impromptu press conference.
Days after Johnson stepped down without telling team owner Jeanie Buss, citing happiness as a reason, the Lakers fired head coach Luke Walton.
As of Friday, they still don’t have a head coach, and reports indicate they have bungled the process. At the rate things are going, the Lakers appear to be nearing a tipping point in which major change might be needed.
The Lakers missed out on their top candidate by lowballing him
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that the Lakers top candidate, Tyronn Lue, backed out of the process after the two sides came to an impasse in negotiations.
According to Wojnarowski, salary, contract length, and overall team structure played a part. Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers offered Lue a three-year $18 million deal to become the head coach, surprising Lue’s camp, as they expected a five-year offer. It would have coincided with LeBron James’ Lakers contract expiring, and reports indicated that Lue was offended at being seen as merely a coach for James.
The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke reported that the Lakers offer not only came up short in years, but it was also low on money. According to Plaschke, both Walton and Monty Williams (another candidate the Lakers interviewed but passed on) signed five-year $25 million deals with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, respectively, this offseason — figures closer to today’s standard in the NBA.
The structure of the team appeared to turn off Lue as well. Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers wanted input on Lue’s assistant coaching staff. Among the candidates was Jason Kidd, who the Lakers interviewed for the head-coaching job and impressed the team. Such a setup would have undermined Lue’s authority in the locker room from the jump.
The entire Lue debacle shows how poorly the Lakers handled the situation. The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported that the Lakers preferred Lue over Williams, but some in the organization were sensitive to the optics of hiring Lue, believing it would be viewed as appeasing James, who played under Lue with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Stein, the Lakers essentially waited out Williams, who was hired by the Suns, then began to move in on Lue. Lue’s hiring seemed so inevitable that Lue was seen celebrating his birthday with a Lakers-themed cake.
According to Wojnarowski, the Lakers are now “scrambling” for a coach. There are other intriguing candidates on the market, but the organization hasn’t done itself any favors in appealing to future candidates.
An uncertain power structure
The Lakers still have a team-president void, and the optics of the coaching search haven’t been favorable to general manager Rob Pelinka.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that Pelinka didn’t think Lue would back out of negotiations because he didn’t have any other offers. The whole thing amounts to the Lakers misplaying their hand.
The Athletic’s Bill Oram wrote that the Lakers