King For A Day: Will The Lakers Trade LeBron James?


Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through May 9: 29-29-1 ATS, 0-6 ML (minus-12.63 units), 38-25-1 Totals

We have to talk about the elephant in the room. His name is Stephen A. Smith, who went on ESPN’s SportsCenter Wednesday night and dropped a bombshell on viewers. Smith said, breathlessly, that he’d been on the phone with “a couple of people,’ and reported the following regarding the Los Angeles Lakers:

“We don’t know what the hell is going on in Los Angeles. You’ve got folks close to [Lakers owner] Jeanie Buss imploring her to trade LeBron James.’

All righty then. Smith isn’t known for investigative journalism, but when it comes to the NBA – and especially the Lakers – it seems like everything’s getting played out for us in public, in real time. Is King James actually on his way out? While we’re waiting for the first trade props to hit the NBA odds board, let’s dig deep, peel back the layers, and get to know the real story behind all this kerfuffle.

All In The Family

Let’s start with what we know. The Lakers were reportedly in negotiations with Tyronn Lue, who led LeBron to a championship two years ago with the Cleveland Cavaliers, to take over the head coaching role in Los Angeles. Those negotiations broke down Wednesday, according to ESPN and “league sources.’

And now a little context. The Lakers front office has been a mess since head coach Phil Jackson “retired’ at the end of the 2010-11 campaign, and things got markedly worse after owner Jerry Buss died in early 2013. It’s been palace intrigue ever since, with Buss’ 66-percent share in the Lakers split evenly among his six children – and Jeanie (romantically linked with Jackson at the time) taking over as team governor. She became team president in 2013-14, with help from her brother Jim as executive VP of basketball operations.

Rambo In The Desert

Then, the deluge. Jim Buss had been learning how to run the Lakers at the feet of his father since 1998, and was expected to eventually run the show – but made a string of curious decisions when given the chance. He was eventually fired/allowed to step down in 2017 and replaced by Magic Johnson, who promptly resigned last month.

So who’s in Jeanie Buss’ ear now? According to the rumor mill, it’s Kurt Rambis. The former beloved power forward for the “Showtime’ Lakers is a Jackson acolyte, but never had the same fan support as a coach, bouncing from L.A. to the Minnesota Timberwolves, then back to the Lakers, then the New York Knicks, and once again to the Lakers last September as “senior basketball advisor.’

Count To Five

Which brings us to Wednesday. Rambis and GM Rob Pelinka (who doesn’t have very many fans himself) apparently wanted Jason Kidd (ditto) to be on Lue’s coaching staff if they were going to give him the job. They also offered Lue a three-year contract instead of the five they gave the previous head coach, Luke Walton. “Forget that,’ Lue said, and here we are.

The messier things get in L.A., the more likely we’ll see them go nuclear and trade James – but it would still be a bolt out of the blue if it happened anytime soon. There are plenty more “LeBron people’ who could take over as head coach, like Juwan Howard, his former teammate with the Miami Heat. And James has been busy shadowing Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard during these playoffs, trying to coax the impending free agent to come back to his hometown.

Then again, stranger things have happened. Around this time last year, the Philadelphia 76ers (+150 at BetOnline) were the leading NBA pick to land LeBron’s services, followed by the Cavaliers (+175) and the Houston Rockets (+220). The Lakers were a distant fourth at +550. Let’s see what kind of odds we get if this LeBron trade prop hits the board, but for now, sit back, enjoy the show, and may the sphere be with you.