Lakers Rumors: LeBron James Not Engaged with Young Players Before Trade Deadline

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James stands in front of head coach Luke Walton during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 124-106. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

As the Los Angeles Lakers' miserable season comes to a close, the league has begun to take stock of what went wrong. 

One of the major issues: LeBron James' relationship (or lack thereof) with his young teammates.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com reported a team source didn't think LeBron "fully engaged with the younger teammates prior to the trade deadline." The Lakers were reportedly heavily pursuing an Anthony Davis trade prior to the deadline, with nearly all of their young core pieces on the table in talks.

McMenamin's article noted the Lakers held a team meeting Feb. 23, in which many of the young players addressed their concerns with James' body language. LeBron reportedly admitted to not always being fully engaged, but the results never came. The Lakers lost their next game to the Memphis Grizzlies and have fallen out of playoff contention.

"Just because [the meeting] was positive doesn't mean we're going to win 25 games in a row," a team source told McMenamin. 

It will be the Lakers' sixth straight season missing the playoffs and LeBron's first since his second year in the NBA.

The Lakers' roster-building philosophy has been a bit of a mess the entire season. None of their offseason veteran acquisitions—Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee—have worked out (McGee's been the closest). They also allowed far better players, most notably Julius Randle and Brook Lopez, to leave in free agency.

McMenamin reported the Lakers never made Randle a contract offer despite him being a restricted free agent.

James' lack of relationship with his teammates shouldn't come as much of a surprise. LeBron has always built relationships slowly with teammates; his first seasons in Miami and back in Cleveland were notably rocky. It took a poolside meeting with Kevin Love in 2015 to fix the fractures of their relationship from their first season together.

James is also more than a decade older than his best teammates; there's going to be a natural generational discord. Couple that with the fact everyone in that locker room knows their time in Los Angeles is probably limited—the Lakers aren't going to stop making trade calls—and it was always a recipe for disaster.