When the Los Angeles Lakers — with an abundance of cap room — can’t get a meeting with the NBA’s top free agent, we know something has to be up.
Once an organization that represented success more so than any other in professional sports, the Lakers are now a shell of their former selves.
This became readily apparent during their historically bad 2015-16 season. It was even more apparent during the summer of last year when the team couldn’t land any big prizes on the free-agent market and had to resort to the likes of Roy Hibbert.
Now, with a young nucleus and one of the best young coaches in the entire Association, some figured the Lakers’ recent string of bad fortune would be coming to an end.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. This year’s top free agent prize is Kevin Durant. He fits the model of that franchise guy that you can build a team around. A former MVP. A player that’s among the top five in the entire Association. Someone that would fit LA’s history to a T.
Durant will be meeting with six teams, including two from the Lakers’ home state in the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors.
He, however, will not be having a sit down with the Lakers themselves in New York over the weekend (more on that here).
Behind the scenes, Durant politely declined to meet with the brass of an organization that has won 16 NBA titles, including five this century.
Instead, Durant will find himself wooed by an organization in Oakland that has an asset that could have lured the former MVP to Southern California.
That asset is the literal face of the NBA, Jerry West — an individual that was responsible for all five of the Lakers titles this century. Talk about a kick in the junk.
In the mean time, the Lakers are biding their time. For what? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. What we do know is that they are not appealing enough for Durant to even take a few minutes to sit down and talk with. That’s a stunning development for such a historical franchise.
As for Lakers failure to meet w/ KD. One league source incredulously asked yesterday why Kupchak/Buss haven't spent last 8 months on this
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 30, 2016
This comes at a time when those around the NBA have drawn the conclusion that the Lakers emblem. Their history. The success we have seen in the past. None of this matters to today’s top players.
All they see is a fledgling organization that’s been a mess from the top down for years now.
To make matters even more unbearable for this squad, the rival Los Angeles Clippers will be meeting with Durant in New York over the weekend. They will be doing so with very little room to spare under the cap (none, actually).
They will also be doing so by sending the big three of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to help woo Durant to the city of angels.
Los Angeles may never become Clipper-land. From living there in the past, and visiting there all the time, that has become abundantly clear to this one scribe.
It’s still rather interesting that the Clippers continue to prove themselves more viable in NBA circles than the Lakers.
Heck, coming off a 23-59 season in 2009-10, the Clips were able to secure a meeting with LeBron James while the Lakers were left out in the cold.
This stiffing of the Lakers isn’t just limited to top-end free agents. Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat was supposed to meet with the purple and gold before backing out on the eve of free agency.
It will definitely be interesting to see what happens over the next week, but we can pretty much conclude the Lakers will be forced to overpay for mediocre free agents. Of course, this is dependent on the team hitting the market hard in the first place.
Based on what we’ve seen from Mitch Kupchak and Co., that might not even be a realistic expectation right now.
“Why do I act like I’m all high and mighty when inside I’m dying,” Eminem once said. “I’ve finally realized that I need help.”
As an organization, this has to be what the Lakers are feeling like right now. It is a mighty fall from the pedestal of the Showtime era.