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Lakers to sit LeBron James for remainder of NBA season

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Plenty of pundits took to the web/airwaves in recent weeks to preach this should have happened sooner, but LeBron James did not want to sit once the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs back on March 22.

He knows fans pay to see him and he doesn’t want to disappoint. He said he wanted to compete, not rest. Plus, while he didn’t say it, he is still working to form a bond with Lakers fans, who have not embraced him as fans did in Cleveland (next to his home town of Akron) or Miami. At least not yet. Playing helped with that.

But it’s happening now, LeBron is being sat for the remainder of the season, six games.

Here’s the statement from team president Magic Johnson and general manager, Rob Pelinka.

“After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron out of games for the remainder of the season. This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.”

LeBron finishes the season having played 55 games (a career low) and averaging 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. His runs of eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and 13 straight playoff appearances are dead.

LeBron never seemed fully recovered from the groin injury that sidelined him 17 games starting after Christmas. He had stretches of vintage LeBron, but didn’t have the same explosion or ability to lift a team up and carry it as we had seen in season’s past. He’s also 34 years old now. On top of all that were questions of how well he connected with this young team, and how he didn’t seem happy with the team’s roster construction.

The Lakers will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season and will head into the summer with an organizational priority of finding another star to go next to LeBron.

What does this mean to the Lakers on the court for the next six games? It’s not good. The stats here are a little dated but the idea holds.

Just as a reminder, also out are Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart.

Rajon Rondo hopes to return to Lakers next season

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Part of the goal this season for the Lakers was to see how their players — from the young core through the veterans on one-year contracts — meshed with LeBron James. Could they play together? That would determine their future with the franchise. Here are the net ratings of other Lakers when paired with LeBron this season:

Josh Hart: +4.8
Lonzo Ball: +3.1
Kyle Kuzma: +2.9
JaVale McGee: +1.6
Brandon Ingram: +0.9
Rajon Rondo: -5.5

Rondo, finishing up a one-year contract with the team for $9 million, is a free agent this summer but wants to return to the Lakers, he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Absolutely,” Rondo told ESPN when asked if he wanted to come back to the Lakers next season. “Absolutely. I mean, the only way we can go from here is up.

“So, I don’t know what the future holds as far as the summer — if I come back, or who else comes back or if I don’t come back. Those things are out of my control. But at the same time, it’s a great organization. I can’t say enough about the staff and the people who work here. They’re really kind and helpful, so I want to continue, if I can, help this organization grow…

“As far as long term, maybe not like a six-year deal, but you know, I’m only 33.”

What happens to Rondo — and McGee, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and everyone else on one-year contracts (and even guys on longer-term deals) — is completely up in the air. The Lakers are going to go big game hunting in free agency (or via trade) this summer, looking to get another star to pair with LeBron, then every other roster decision will come after that move. Plus, the Lakers almost certainly will have a new coach, and they would be smart to get bench and role players that fit with the style-of-play that coach prefers.

Injuries — and a suspension for spitting in the face of Chris Paul — have limited Rondo to 42 games this season with the Lakers, where he averaged 8.7 points and 7.9 assists per game. Luke Walton has praised Rondo’s decision making and leadership on the court, and he’s improved to shoot 35.6 percent from three. That said he struggled with his shot inside the arc and has a troubling true shooting percentage of 47. His defense is an issue, he was once an outstanding defender but those days are gone. Rondo is, at this point, at best a replacement level NBA player.

The Lakers might bring him back anyway. This front office is unpredictable.

LeBron James on Lakers’ roster construction stylistically: [fart noise]

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After signing LeBron James, the Lakers emphasized tough-mindedness, playmaking and defense in building his supporting cast. Complementary shooting was deemphasized. That meant signing players like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley.

The results have been horrendous. Those players just aren’t good enough, even at the skills the Lakers coveted. Exacerbating the problem, those players also fit poorly with LeBron, who predictably took the ball back into his own hands.

The Cavaliers and Heat showed how well shooters complement LeBron. He’s lethal with space, and his forceful drives/passing ability creates numerous open long-range looks. If those shooters can also defend, that LeBron-led team is on the path to contention.

Instead, LeBron’s floormates shot just 33% on 3-pointers this season. That’s by far the lowest in the last dozen years, as far back as NBA.com has data. Here’s the 3-point shooting of LeBron’s floormates by season:

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Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

What did James think of the Lakers’ grand experiment? How did he view the idea of prioritizing playmaking over shooting.

“That experiment?” James said of the roster construction for his first season in L.A.

James stared out onto the court for a moment, turned his attention back to the conversation, pursed his lips and stuck out his tongue as he trumpeted air out of his mouth, making a raspberry sound.

“THBPBPTHPT!”

Before signing with the Lakers, LeBron put out word he wanted to play off the ball more. Lakers president Magic Johnson said LeBron signed off on the team’s additions last summer.

And this is the response now that the plan (predictably) failed?

This is the difficulty of managing LeBron. He sometimes has roster input, but he’s not there to take blame when moves go wrong.

He has earned that power. LeBron brings so much positive to an organization, the people around him must deal with the drawbacks. It can just be frustrating.

It’s Johnson’s job, though. He must get the Lakers to the next stage.

On the bright side, the Lakers signed all these ill-fitting players to only one-year contracts. As I wrote last summer about the Lakers’ plan for this season:

I’m doubtful.

At least the Lakers have the young players (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart) and cap space next summer to re-tool if this plan fails.

Rumor: LeBron James didn’t fully engage with young Lakers teammates

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LeBron James signed with the Lakers for many reasons. They play in sunny Los Angeles, where he has a home. They’re near Hollywood. They’re arguably the NBA’s most prestigious franchise.

I doubt it was because of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Especially because LeBron-to-the-Lakers became viewed as an eventuality before the Lakers got any of those young players.

And maybe LeBron’s interest in that quartet didn’t change much even after arriving in Los Angeles.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

One team source told ESPN that they didn’t feel as though James fully engaged with the younger teammates prior to the trade deadline.

That’s only someone’s opinion, man. You or I could look at the same interactions between LeBron and his teammates and deem it healthy.

But there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence McMenamin’s source’s view is accurate.

LeBron repeatedly questioned his teammates. He openly courted Anthony Davis, which led the Lakers to offer most of their roster for the Pelicans superstar and disrupted chemistry in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, LeBron showed hypocrisy.

LeBron has sounded more pleased with his younger teammates lately. He even went out of his way to (over)emphasize their importance.

He better hope its not too late to instill positive working relationships with them.

Which star is coming to Los Angeles? How much trade value do these young players hold anymore?

Though they will and should continue to hunt for proven stars, the Lakers might be stuck developing from within.

Report: Pelicans blame Lakers for leaking Anthony Davis trade-talk details

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The Pelicans are rumored to have deliberately sabotaged the Lakers’ chemistry through Anthony Davis trade negotiations. Lakers president Magic Johnson said the Pelicans didn’t act in good faith during trade talks. Lakers owner Jeannie Buss called it “fake news” Los Angeles offered its entire roster despite nine players – Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley – reportedly being offered in various proposals.

Are the Lakers the victim here?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Throughout the two-week saga stemming from Davis’ trade request, the Pelicans became frustrated about how public the Lakers-initiated discussions had become.

“We get off the phone with (the Lakers), and a minute later, offers are out there,” one Pelicans source with direct knowledge of discussions told The Athletic.

Lakers superstar LeBron James made these trade negotiations public before they even began between the teams, saying he wanted to play with Davis. The Lakers clearly negotiated through the media, too.

Quibble with the methodology, but the Lakers were right to strongly pursue Davis. He’s a special player.

They’re just dealing with the fallout now.

Presumably, the Lakers will try again to acquire Davis this summer. How will they build trust with New Orleans then?

The Pelicans will likely have the same owner, Gayle Benson, and same New Orleans Saints influence that dug in their heels against sending Davis to Los Angeles. Though general manager Dell Demps got fired, interim and potential long-term replacement Danny Ferry was in the organization for prior trade talks, too.

The Celtics are in the driver’s seat for Davis because of their rich pool of assets. The Lakers’ disconnect with the Pelicans doesn’t hurt, either.