Jerry West knows, perhaps better than anyone, what makes the Los Angeles Lakers attractive to top NBA talent.
After all, he was the team’s general manager for many years and helped lure superstars to Hollywood, most notably Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent in the summer of 1996.
The Lakers recently pulled off their biggest free agent coup since O’Neal when they signed LeBron James as a free agent earlier this month.
West, now an executive with the Los Angeles Clippers, recently did an interview with legendary Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum. And it doesn’t sound like “The Logo” is giving a ton of credit to the Lakers for signing James.
“All due respect to the Lakers, who handled everything well, but as these things go, LeBron was not a tough free-agent signing,” West told McCallum. “LeBron wanted to come to L.A. and he wanted to come to the Lakers. Period.”
He’s not wrong. The Lakers didn’t do a whole lot recently to make their situation an easy one for James to join. The mere fact that the Lakers are in Los Angeles probably was a huge factor for James, who already owned a home in the area and has business interests in southern California.
The Lakers haven’t drafted particularly well of late. They don’t have any of the players they drafted in 2014 or 2015, and even though their No. 2 overall picks in 2016 (Brandon Ingram) and 2017 (Lonzo Ball) have shown flashes of potentially being very good, the Lakers passed on better players in both of those drafts.
The Lakers’ free agent signings, both in the couple of years before James’ arrival and the additions in the immediate aftermath, also have been questionable. Surrounding James with non-shooting threats such as Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee isn’t the best way to build around the four-time MVP’s skill set.
Time will tell if James can bring the Lakers back to their glory days, but West has his own challenges with the Clippers, a franchise now devoid of superstars after losing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in less than a year.
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images
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