NBA Players Who Should Be Pissed at Their Front Offices
We're living in an era of increased player agency in the NBA.
This is a beautiful thing...unless you're a member of a front office or an ownership group.
Front offices and owners are now on notice: When there's a squeaky wheel, get it greased in a hurry. Otherwise, expect a trade demand to follow.
The players featured below haven't forced their way onto the trade block, and some might never do so at all. But every one of these guys has a reason to be upset with his respective team's front office.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Everything the Los Angeles Lakers did after landing LeBron James amounts to management malpractice.
Well, almost everything. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's one-year, $12 million deal was fine. Otherwise, though...
Sure, it's cool James is tied to L.A. for at least three years. That would seem to diminish the need to build a contender immediately. And yeah, it makes sense to hoard cap space for 2019.
But the Lakers are operating as if they're certain James' prime will last indefinitely. They aren't in a position to compete for a title because they populated the roster with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley, four big personalities who provide little spacing or defense.
James will be playing his age-35 season in 2019-20, which seems to be the year L.A. is targeting to get this new era off the ground.
What if this season represents James' last chance to lead a championship team? What if the Lakers are squandering what might be the only superstar year they'll get from their heretofore indestructible hero?
The only reason James might not be ticked off by Los Angeles' bizarre series of moves is because he may have green-lit all of them, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst. That might be an even bigger problem for the Lakers—one that should mean James no longer gets input on the front office's decisions.
What's scarier, though: wasting James' last great year, or the risk of making him angry by cutting him out of personnel discussions?
Either way, this is a thorny situation.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler is the easy pick here, but most of his anger is reportedly directed at his teammates. Though there's room for that to spill over into the front office, the free-agent-to-be doesn't quite make this list.
Instead, that spot is reserved for Karl-Anthony Towns, a clear supermax candidate who's currently without a contract extension.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have until Oct. 15 to lock down the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, and these things often go down to the wire. But this is an unusual situation.
Towns is objectively worthy of the full max. He's one of nine players in league history to total at least 5,300 points and 2,800 rebounds in his first three seasons. The other eight are all in the Hall of Fame. Not only that, but Towns made 251 treys in his first three years. The other eight players on that list made a combined total of two.
He's a generational offensive talent.
If that weren't enough, there's also the small matter of the five-year max Andrew Wiggins signed last offseason. If the Wolves were willing to heap that kind of cash on Wiggins, who wasn't worth it at the time and responded to his raise by regressing statistically, Towns has to be wondering where his money is.
The whole situation in Minnesota feels unstable. If the Timberwolves don't hustle up and give Towns what he's due, they could be headed toward an implosion.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
In July, Damian Lillard squashed the chatter that he's miffed at the Portland Trail Blazers, telling reporters: "I'm not unhappy. I love where I live. I love the organization. I love our coaching staff. I love where I am."
That he had to give such reassurances says plenty about the situation in Portland.
Lillard had an hour-long meeting with owner Paul Allen in January to address his concerns about the organization's direction, according to ESPN.com's Chris Haynes. Allen was concerned Lillard might request a trade, Haynes reported, although that didn't come to fruition at the time.
Dame is still in Portland, but ignoring the potential for further unrest would foolish. The Blazers were swept out of the playoffs last year and figure to have a hard time returning to the postseason with the West perpetually getting tougher.
Toss in the loss of Ed Davis, whom Lillard wanted to keep, and the odd exchange that replaced Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton with Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, and it's hard to imagine Lillard is any more reassured about Portland's trajectory than he was when he met with Allen.
The Blazers are a good team, but they aren't good enough to get much done in the playoffs as presently constructed. That's obvious to anyone observing from the outside. It must be even clearer to Lillard, who had to watch the team create this mess with bad deals for Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard over the past few summers.
It feels like a matter of time before we hear of another high-level meeting—one that produces significant fallout this time.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
To be clear, Manu Ginobili doesn't actually get pissed off.
He's reached a higher plane of enlightenment in his 41 years on earth, so he responds to negativity by tapping into the universe's wisdom. It takes him about three deep breaths to reach peak transcendence, but once he gets there, all he has to do is open his consciousness to the ninth dimension and accept that all life is made of the same matter, which means anger directed toward another is really anger turned inward.
He levitates while he unravels the cosmos' mysteries. Forgot to mention that.
But if Ginobili allowed himself the luxury of discontent, he'd realize that his San Antonio Spurs are not contenders without Kawhi Leonard. With Tony Parker gone now as well, he stands alone as the last remnant of glory past, a vestige of bygone days.
It didn't have to be this way. The Spurs could have handled Leonard's situation differently, preserving that relationship and keeping their title window ajar ever so slightly.
Now, San Antonio is just another team. And Ginobili has never played for "just another team."
If Ginobili walks away from an unathletic, spacing-starved roster that likely can't win a playoff series, we'll observe an international day of mourning. Thankfully, we'll get over that quickly when he solves world hunger and reverses global warming on his first day as a retiree.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid told ESPN that critical comments from former general manager Bryan Colangelo—which made their way to the public through burner Twitter accounts linked to Colangelo's wife—provided motivation.
But he also called them hurtful.
Embiid touts Sam Hinkie's Process at every opportunity, so it isn't as though it was ever difficult to guess where his loyalties were. But after the Colangelo burner saga, Embiid has even more reason to feel uneasy about the Philadelphia 76ers' front office.
Most transactions and news stories out of Philly since Hinkie's firing indicate the team—and the NBA, if you're into the idea that Hinkie was forced out—made the wrong decision. So far, there hasn't been much comeuppance for the mistake, but if there's another incident that tests Embiid's patience, that could change.
We have yet to mention that the Sixers kind of whiffed on their offseason, too. After dealing with the Colangelo drama, Embiid may be even less forgiving about a summer that failed to deliver a major upgrade to the roster.
Fortunately, Embiid isn't one to hop on social media and call people out. So there's little risk he'll ever cause a stir, right?