The Lakers’ power struggle isn’t over.
Magic Johnson leaving as team president paved the way for general manager Rob Pelinka to strengthen his hold on personnel decisions, follow through with the firing of coach Luke Walton and decide on Walton’s successor.
However, according to the New York Times, there are some within the Lakers organization who fear that hiring Tyronn Lue to replace Walton would give too much power to LeBron James, and that could tip the advantage to 76ers assistant Monty Williams. Heat assistant Juwan Howard is also a candidate. All three are expected to meet with the Lakers this week.
Lue coached James on the Cavaliers and the two won a championship together in 2016. But reuniting the two could potentially add to the massive say James already possesses.
That would come at a time when the Lakers are facing a franchise crossroads. The first season of the James era turned into the franchise’s sixth straight without a playoff appearance. Johnson and Pelinka made a series of head-scratching signings after landing James — bringing in Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee on one-year deals.
With the Cavaliers and Heat, James thrived with shooters around him, and those additions were seemingly made counter to that thinking. However, since those contracts were all one-year deals, the Lakers will have cap space to work with this offseason.
James was not blameless, either. Many pointed the finger at him and his agent, Rich Paul, for engineering the very public trade talks between the Lakers and Pelicans over Anthony Davis. The star forward made his trade request through Paul, and a month of rumors included all of the Lakers’ younger talent — Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball — and led to further strife within the roster.
The Lakers will likely be pursuing Davis again this offseason. Who will be pulling the strings behind those efforts remains to be seen.