LeBron James reportedly lost the trust of his younger Los Angeles Lakers teammates after rumors spread about a potential trade for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline.
Many of the Lakers' young assets were rumored to be included in a trade for Davis, and Bill Oram of The Athletic reported Tuesday that it caused a "schism" in the locker room: "It was apparent that the young players no longer trusted James, believing he was operating behind the scenes to get them traded to New Orleans."
L.A. offered Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and draft picks as part of its blockbuster proposal to New Orleans for Davis, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reported Feb. 4. But the Lakers didn't land Davis or any other major pieces; Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala were the only additions.
General manager Rob Pelinka maintained that the team could bounce back after the drama-filled stretch.
"What I've come to learn is that any time in life you face a challenge or a moment of adversity, you have to look at that as an opportunity," Pelinka told reporters. "When you go through anything as a team, if you go through adversity, you can choose how to respond. Does it draw you closer together, or does it push you further apart?"
Instead, the Lakers' season, which had started to fade while James missed five weeks because of a groin injury suffered on Christmas Day, spiraled out of control, and they missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
Now the question is whether the reported damage in James' relationships with his teammates can be repaired during an offseason that'll likely be filled with more trade rumors.
Pelinka and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson haven't been coy about their desire to add more star power to the roster alongside James. Giving up some of their young players and future draft picks could be the best way to make that happen barring a free-agent bonanza.
As the failed efforts at the deadline illustrated, however, not being able to pull off big deals can leave players on the roster feeling alienated.