Justin Norris | Staff Writer
Nuccio DiNuzzo | Associated Press
After signing LeBron James this past offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were not expected to miss the playoffs in 2019. They didn’t necessarily have championship aspirations this year, but the Lakers’ postseason drought will likely extend to six consecutive seasons, the longest in franchise history.
The arrival of what many believe to be the best player in basketball history was supposed to prevent that.
It was a consensus that James’ streak of eight straight NBA Finals appearances was in serious jeopardy when he joined the Lakers, but he had not missed the playoffs since 2005, his second season in the NBA, so L.A. fans were hopeful.
James is not completely at fault here. The Lakers were the fourth seed in the highly competitive Western Conference before James suffered a groin injury during the third quarter of a Christmas Day game against the Warriors. The injury left little margin for error as several teams were close to the Lakers in the Western Conference standings. They could not find a rhythm, going 6-11 in James’ absence.
There appeared to be hope on the horizon. All-NBA power forward Anthony Davis informed the New Orleans Pelicans that he wanted to be traded before the NBA’s Feb. 7 trade deadline. Davis stated that he would not sign a five-eyear, $240 million supermax contract extension with the Pelicans after this season. Davis can become a free agent after the 2019-2020 season.
His agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN on Jan. 28 that “Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.”
People around the NBA deduced that the timing of Davis’ request meant that he wanted to be dealt to the Lakers, but due to a provision in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, some teams were forbidden from making trade requests. The downside of having a public trade request was that each and every offer the Lakers made to the Pelicans was made public. This torpedoed the chemistry and morale of the young and inexperienced Lakers core.
Tyler Snead, a junior strategic communications major from Los Angeles, California, wants to see wholesale changes from the Lakers this offseason.
“It is clear that LeBron needs help,” Snead said. “The Western Conference is too deep for LeBron to be doing it by himself like when he was in Cleveland for the first time. I never liked Magic Johnson’s offseason signings of guys like Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson. This offseason is very important, and he needs to correct these issues.”
Since this season has been viewed as a failure by Lakers fans and detractors alike, the team is expected to make big changes in the offseason.
According to Yahoo Sports, every option is reportedly on the table, from moving recent draft picks in a trade to firing coach Luke Walton or even trading James. In addition to resuming trade talks for AD, it is also no secret that the NBA’s glamour franchise is in the market for big-name free agents. The 2019 class of free agents is a deep and top-heavy class, headlined by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton.
With the Clippers expected to have cap space, and a desire to sign Leonard, the Lakers need to have a strong offseason to avoid becoming passed over in their own city. It is not enough for them to simply be in L.A. anymore. The Lakers need a clear plan for the future if they want to make this season an aberration instead of the norm.
Nuccio DiNuzzo | Associated Press