Staples Center essentially became the new Mecca of basketball thanks to the recent influx of star power to both the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers.
The Lakers kickstarted this effort by signing LeBron James as a free agent. Following a tumultuous debut season, the Lakers brass was adamant about bringing in some help. The first step was to re-visit trade talks with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis.
Then nearly simultaneously, the Lakers were involved in the Kawhi Leonard free agency sweepstakes. Despite the reported mutual interest between both sides, Leonard ultimately opted to take command of his own team with the Clippers.
Not only did the Lakers lose out on forming a super team of their own, they missed a chance at others who were free agents. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss explained the challenge that created but noted vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka adjusted well, via the “Daddy Issues” podcast with Joe Buck and Oliver Hudson:
“We were very sincere in our efforts to try and get Kawhi. We felt that was something that he was obviously interested in, because he wanted to meet with us. But as it turns out, he made the choice that was right for him. It was difficult to go through that process because of the waiting game. We were missing out on other players and could’ve missed out on other players. Once he made his decision, Rob Pelinka really turned, got the work done and put together a really terrific roster.”
There has been plenty of speculation regarding where exactly the Lakers went wrong in their pursuit of Leonard. Although Buss has since acknowledged the prospect of Leonard’s camp using the team as leverage for their negotiations with the Clippers, there have also been rumors about the requests of illegal perks that were being made by his uncle Dennis Robertson.
While forming a star-studded trio with James, Leonard and Davis would have secured their chances at competing for a championship for the foreseeable future barring health issues, the chances of it coming to fruition always seemed too good to be true.
Fortunately, Pelinka did a stellar job of putting the necessary pieces around James and Davis to form the best team in the Western Conference that went on to win a championship anyhow.
Lakers, Clippers again title favorites
Although the Clippers became a bit of a laughing stock due to their collapse in the playoffs, they and the Lakers are among the prohibitive championship favorites this season. Both teams retooled their rosters, with the Lakers notably signing Montrezl Harrell away from the Clippers.
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