After a brief reprieve during which LeBron James favored Cleveland with a title, then went to Hollywood and disappeared like Macaulay Culkin, it is now safe once more to actively cheer against his interests.
That’s one takeaway from the big, power-shifting trade that sent Anthony Davis from New Orleans to Los Angeles to join James in the latest collaboration of superfriends. At least some order has been restored to the NBA, for James is easy to pull against once more.
Last year James was bogged down in the tar pit that was the Lakers. That franchise was a swirl of dysfunction and for the first time in 14 seasons, James missed the postseason. And for the first time in nine seasons, he wasn’t a part of the NBA Finals. Throw in a groin injury that cut his season short at 55 games (a career low), and James was in the most uncommon role of non-factor.
That condition was short-lived. After months of sly recruiting and myriad tampering concerns, he got his guy in Davis and hijacked the offseason.
Joining with Davis wasn’t the loud, over-the-top production that James help orchestrate in Miami. This was a more subtle shift, a bit of Machiavellian maneuvering that sewed chaos within both the Lakers and the Pelicans last season. In the end, the two players’ common agent, Rich Paul, successfully gamed the system.
And it was just so L.A., this trading away three young players and three No. 1 draft picks for Davis. Such a quick fix, an almost frantic attempt to make the best of what’s left of James’ youth. This was to team building what the silicon implant is to a rigorous regimen of diet and exercise.
Not blaming James or Davis or their agent — of course they would want to put themselves in the best possible position. But pardon me if I don’t feel like celebrating it.
And, you know, for a guy who fancies himself the greatest of all time (which he isn’t), James does seem a little needy, always looking for help. To LeBron James, all the world is his playground and he should always have at least the first three picks when choosing up the sides.
Not asking for any great misfortune to befall the principals of this trade. It would just be nice to see it all come undone for the Lakers like, oh, say, any given Dwight Howard experiment. But the West is just so vulnerable now that all of Golden State will be in orthopedic rehab.
Whatever is to be the outcome of the James-Davis collaboration, it certainly will play out fully before our eyes, because the Lakers are going to be on TV more than Stephen Colbert. Every sense will be assaulted by this new partnership, another reason to resent it.
Wouldn’t it be fun if Pelicans win this deal, if they find themselves better off with Zion Williamson and a bunch of other young talent who don’t have one foot out the door by January? Wouldn’t it be grand if the Pelicans, not the Lakers, became the more intriguing collection?
Perhaps this could even be some cosmic payback for New Orleans for the day in 1999 that Saints coach Mike Ditka traded away eight draft picks over two years for the right to move up and draft the flawed running back Ricky Williams.
Now all the Lakers have to do is find some parts to fit in around their stars — committing to another high-profile player or deciding to spend on depth. Or just go ahead and play two-on-five and see how that goes.
Whatever, if player-coach-GM-executive-producer LeBron James doesn’t get it quite right, no complaints here.