James’ Lak­ers crew

Pres­i­dent and liv­ing leg­end Magic John­son did preach pa­tience and un­der­score that his was a two-year win­dow. He’s ask­ing for trust, and, cred­itably, he got it from James. And, for a while, the fans will in­dulge him be­cause of his ca­chet. Sooner rather tha

Business World - - WORLD SPORTS - OPIN­ION ANTHONY L. CUAYCONG

It says a ton about the Lak­ers’ de­ci­sion mak­ing in free agency that their grade has so far been pegged at mid­dling. Any off­sea­son that nets LeBron James should au­to­mat­i­cally be rated an A+, and yet they’re seen to have pro­duced an in­com­plete at best. At ques­tion is what they did af­ter the finest of the bright­est of the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion by far com­mit­ted to join­ing them, and for the medium term. With him on board, their in­trin­sic ad­van­tages tied to ro­bust salary cap space fig­ured to lure in vi­tal cogs. In­stead, they wound up with a bunch of third-tier play­ers pos­sess­ing ques­tion­able fit.

Need­less to say, it’s not how gen­eral man­ager Rob Pelinka sees the Lak­ers’ po­si­tion. As far as he’s con­cerned, they’re right on sched­ule in their plan to ul­ti­mately chal­lenge for the hard­ware; they went af­ter as­sets that will al­low them to go against the grain while main­tain­ing cap flex­i­bil­ity. “We pur­posely wanted this team to be built very dif­fer­ently than the past ones [James] has played with,” he said in a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day. He was re­spond­ing to queries on why they didn’t fol­low the blue­print that spelled suc­cess for the four-time Most Valu­able Player in pre­vi­ous cam­paigns: Sur­round him with shoot­ers, and then let him weave his magic.

Granted, Pelinka has a point. Riff­ing off on the clas­sic def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity as do­ing the same things over and over again but ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult, he noted that “to try to play the War­riors at their own game is a trap. No one’s go­ing to beat them at their own game.” That said, it’s a stretch to deem the ad­di­tions of Lance Stephen­son and Ra­jon Rondo (who, like James, re­quire the ball to be most ef­fec­tive) and JaVale McGee (who needs threats around him to scav­enge around the bas­ket with con­sis­tency) as ma­jor steps in the right di­rec­tion.

There’s a sil­ver lin­ing, of course. The Lak­ers have James, and his re­mark­able skill set serves to cure myr­iad ills. Then again, it’s pre­cisely be­cause they do that their ap­proach to the 2018-2019 sea­son has in­vited scru­tiny. You don’t punt when you have him on board; you max­i­mize your time with him by swing­ing for the fences. As Pelinka him­self pointed out, “we cel­e­brate one thing; that’s NBA cham­pi­onships.” Which, it must be ar­gued, won’t be within reach when he’s sur­rounded by youth­ful tal­ent and vet­eran ex­pe­ri­ence that col­lec­tively don’t crowd the top.

To be fair, Pres­i­dent and liv­ing leg­end Magic John­son did preach pa­tience and un­der­score that his was a two-year win­dow. He’s ask­ing for trust, and, cred­itably, he got it from James. And, for a while, the fans will in­dulge him be­cause of his ca­chet. Sooner rather than later, though, the rel­e­vance that he helped give the Lak­ers anew will have to lead to recog­ni­tion.

ANTHONY L. CUAYCONG has been writ­ing Court­side since Busi­ness­World in­tro­duced a Sports sec­tion in 1994.

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