It was only a year ago that the Lakers were NBA's train wreck team. So much has happened since February 2019 it feels it was a decade ago. This may jog your memory.
Anthony Davis, represented by Rich Paul (Klutch Sports) tried to force a trade midseason. Before you start, I want to remind you the NBA investigated LeBron's connection to Klutch Sports and found no rule violation. It just so happens that most Klutch business somehow suits LeBron's interests. Back to the Lakers. The trade didn't happen, all the young players on the team couldn't trust LeBron, and fans around the league reminded them of that fact every chance they got. “LeBron will trade you” was the most used chant in NBA arenas after the All-Star break.
It's been one of the most common criticisms of LeBron. While no-one's shocked that MVP caliber players get consulted on significant team changes and personnel moves, LeBron seemed to have more control than that. Jose Calderon knows a thing or two about that. Numero Ocho played with LeBron in Cleveland in '17/'18, at the pinnacle of his alleged LeGM days. Here's how he explained it.
“I think that's something we already have in mind with everyday sport. You talk about soccer, and you have Messi, now people are thinking the same thing [about Messi]. Or Ronaldo. At the end of the day, when you have one of those guys, it's not about them making decisions. If I was the GM or the coach, I'm guessing you'll always gonna have to go to him and ask him, 'What do you think about this?' That doesn't mean he's making the decision.”
Calderon is making a common-sense argument. If you are building a team around LeBron, his input on the style of play and guys in the league he played against or with in the past is valuable. Long before LeBron James, superstars were kept in the loop, and their opinions were heard.
But with rights comes responsibility. You can't lead player empowerment, but dismiss the responsibility that comes with the extra power. LeBron held organizations hostage with short contracts, putting pressure on front offices to go all-in or he would leave. His voice and opinion got more significant with that, and consequentially LeBron has more responsibility for the end result.
Messi's actually a great example. His best days were when Pep Guardiola was coaching, Xavi and Iniesta ran the show and Messi did Messi stuff. When Guardiola and the veterans left the team, Messi started running the show - see if this sounds familiar. Constant coaching changes (six coaches in eight years), and extreme roster turnaround. If they win it Messi's brilliance, if they lose the team around him or the coach sucks.
Keep this in mind. The best organizations out there, the ones everyone considers a benchmark of excellence, don't accept that modus operandi. Masai Ujiri, Danny Ainge, and above all Pat Riley appreciate payer input, but everyone knows who makes the decisions.