The Lakers have had to look at the colloquial adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” from varied perspectives over the last couple of years. They rebooted the cast around All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the offseason following their successful championship run in the National Basketball Association bubble of 2020, never mind that it seemed to have the perfect blend of on-court productivity and off-court camaraderie. This time around, they retooled the roster out of necessity; it was most definitely broken, and they most definitely needed to fix it.
Whether all the frenzied wheeling and dealing of Lakers vice-president of hoops operations Rob Pelinka in the last week proves beneficial remains to be seen. The very first move he made is no doubt the most controversial; he sent precious trade assets — which could have netted marksman Buddy Hield — the Wizards’ way for notoriously inefficient Russell Westbrook. It dictated his subsequent actions, which came off as a course correction: He brought in outside shooting and floor spacing, but seemingly at the expense of defense and energy.
That said, there can be no questioning the fact that every single one of the additions (and, needless to say, subtractions) was thumbed up by the Lakers’ foundations, and most especially James. For all the power Pelinka wields, nothing gets done to the lineup without the okay of the four-time league Most Valuable Player awardee. Which is as things should be. Parenthetically, fans would be heartened to note that the King has already taken to social media to defend the makeup of the purple and gold. Ownership of the turns of events sends the right message to all and sundry, critics included, and is key to achievement.
Considering the stakes involved, the Lakers are crossing their fingers the ingredients they’re using won’t translate to a beautiful disaster. They’ll take an ugly corker over the former anytime. Against the backdrop of the stability offered by the champion Bucks and the seemingly better-constructed Nets, they offer significant question marks — certainly more than enough to be deemed a gamble. James has spoken, and he believes it’s worth his while, a not insignificant assessment in the face of his advancing age.
Will the Lakers get the last laugh? Critics are pointing East even as they shake their heads. As far as James is concerned, though, the greatest enemy lies within. He knows there’s a lot of work to be done, but he’s oozing with confidence. And that, for diehards of the most storied franchise in the league, is a good start.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.