NBA Rumor: Los Angeles Lakers Turmoil?

362 rumors in this storyline

As he mentioned to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Lakers revoked West’s season tickets, tickets that he said were promised to him by the late Dr. Jerry Buss. According to West, the Lakers didn’t even bother to tell him of the decision. Nobody around the situation believes this to have been a cost-cutting measure. West himself sees it as retribution. Retribution for what, though?

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The dynamic between Jeanie Buss and Jerry West has been shaky at least since back when Phil Jackson started dating Jeanie, all the while presiding over the team as coach. West believed the situation to be unprofessional, and beyond that, distrusted Jackson as a cynical actor. According to sources, the West perspective was a protective one: He believed that Phil was using Jeanie, whom he’d known since she was a teenager, for his own power play. Whatever his intent, West’s judgments were not taken well, and have likely informed a separation that only grows more distant with time.

The season tickets cessation might not have been the deepest cut here. According to sources, Jerry West’s son Ryan, formerly a scout for the Lakers, was frozen out in his last year with the team, the 2018-19 season, in an act of proxy revenge directed towards his father. What does “frozen out,” mean? Ryan West wouldn’t be involved in any meetings or official operations. He’d show up to the facility and essentially get treated as a ghost, in what was effectively a dare to leave. Publicly, Pelinka would talk up his involvement with the Lakers. Within the halls, a decision was made to coldly cut ties.

Five years later, just two seasons after winning a 17th title, those Lakers are in the muck again, and, during an hourlong lunch chat with this columnist, Jeanie Buss again wants to make her displeasure clear. “We don’t like to be missing the playoffs, I understand the fans anger and frustration,” she said. “I’ve got to make it better.” Even if this means eventually making changes? “Absolutely, if we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” she said, later adding, “I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”

She said the heartbreak must end now, and the basketball operations folks must be the ones to end it. “This last year was extremely disappointing … it was hugely disappointing,” she said. “I feel like we let down Laker fans, and don’t want to do that again, and we’ve got to get it right.” There is a dizzying number of people contained in that “we.” “I’m a collaborator, that’s my nature, as opposed to a sole decision maker,” said Buss.

Shannon Sharpe: Russell Westbrook is having one of his worst seasons on the biggest stage. What advice would you give him? Damian Lillard: So I would just face it. I would just whatever the questions are asked to me, whether I think is a dumb question or something that is self explanatory or whatever, just face it and deal with it or whatever. Russell Westbrook’s career and legacy is undeniable. That’s just the bottom line. The career he’s had, what he’s accomplished, the things that he’s done, nobody else has been able to do it.

Westbrook went on to blame false news reports as a contributing factor to his struggles this past season. “The famous ‘source’ stories that came out about myself, whether it be between me and the staff, me and Frank, me and the fans, there’s just so many made-up stories that are not true,” Westbrook said. “It’s just always having to fight against that constantly. It’s just not [being] given a fair chance. It’s like, ‘OK, now I got to fight against this made-up story. Now I got to fight against this one. Now I go to fight against this one. Now I got to fight against this one.'”

Lakers players were texting during games?

“The players didn’t know who they were answering to, and I think Vogel took the brunt of that because he was the guy they saw every day,” said a league source. “It wasn’t fair. On a regular basis, Rambis would get on Vogel in front of staff and players — in practices, in the hallway where everybody can see it. He wasn’t taking it behind closed doors and laying it out. And what position does Rambis have? What’s his title? His title is friend of (team governor) Jeanie Buss.

Russell Westbrook after being told any Laker can bring up the ball: I'm the point guard, give me that s---

“Russell Westbrook never respected Frank [Vogel] from Day 1,” said one Lakers staff member with knowledge of the situation. “The moment Frank said anybody who gets the rebound can bring it up the court, which is just how the NBA is played these days, Russ was like, ‘Naw, I’m the point guard. Give the ball to me. Everybody run. Frank was like, ‘No, we have Talen [Horton-Tucker)] We have Austin [Reaves]. We have Malik. We have LeBron. We have AD. They can all bring the ball up.’ He was like, ‘Nope, I’m the point guard. Give me that s—. Everybody get out the way.’ “From that point on, in training camp, it was a wrap, ‘cause now Russ is a fish out of water. He doesn’t know what to do. That’s how that started.”

Russell Westbrook: 'It’s a situation that I was just blessed to be able to be in'

Despite all of that negativity, Westbrook — who often credits faith and family with helping him stay positive and keep perspective — described this failed season as a learning experience. “Honestly, me personally, it’s a situation that I was just blessed to be able to be in,” he said. “Learned a lot about a lot of different things within myself. I was able to just stay real faithful and true to what I believe in, regardless of what was ever thrown our way, or my way. “I’m covered,” he stated, when asked what he’s learned. “I am super-blessed and grateful. Regardless of whatever is thrown my way, I’m covered by the protection of faith… I can always prevail and get through it.”

A season that started with championship promise for the Los Angeles Lakers ended with the pain of failing to even qualify for the play-in tournament. Tuesday’s 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns — coupled with a 116-97 win by the San Antonio Spurs over the Denver Nuggets — officially eliminated L.A. from play-in contention with three games remaining in the regular season. “Extremely disappointed,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “Disappointed for our fan base. Disappointed for the Buss family, who gave us all this opportunity and we want to play our part in bringing success to Laker basketball and we fell short.”

LeBron James: 'It pretty much was a must-win for us, and we didn't get the job done'

LeBron James’ last-ditch 3-pointer found nothing but air, and the Lakers’ postseason hopes continued to vanish with Friday night’s 114-111 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. “The big picture is that it pretty much was a must-win for us, and we didn’t get the job done,” said James. “We had great opportunities throughout the night, and we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. So that’s the big picture.”

Russell Westbrook on why he hasn't sat out difficult Lakers season: Because it's bigger than me

In an exclusive interview with the nine-time All-Star after the Lakers fell to the Utah Jazz 122-109 Thursday night, he shared why he was against taking time off. “Because it’s bigger than me, man,” Russell Westbrook told Yahoo Sports. “I’m super blessed to have a platform to be able to help show and help other people. So I’m very prideful in showing people on the outside that regardless of the situation, the circumstances that I may be going through, there are ways to be able to get through it. I strongly believe that if I’m healthy, then I’ll be able to play and go out and compete.”

“My family is my foundation,” Westbrook told Yahoo Sports. “My faith is my No. 1 foundation, and I lean on that. And anything outside of that can never waver me because I got so much confidence in those two things that regardless of whatever may come my way, I know I’m able to achieve and show people that regardless of the situation, you can make it out of this. That was really important to me.”

Damian Lillard comes to Russell Westbrook's defense: His career and legacy are undeniable

“Russell Westbrook’s career and legacy is undeniable,” Lillard said. “That’s just the bottom line. The player, the career he’s had, what he’s accomplished, the things that he’s done — nobody else has been able to do it. With all these triple-doubles, I don’t care if you stat chasing or whatever people wanna say. If I try to go every game and get a triple-double for a whole season, I can’t do it. And there’s a lot of other people that can’t do it either. That’s hard in itself to actually do it, whether you’re trying to do it or not.”

LeBron James: 'I'm literally having the time of my life right now'

With the Los Angeles Lakers’ flat-lining season experiencing a bit of a blip with Monday’s 131-120 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James says he still has something left to play for. “I’m literally having the time of my life right now,” James said after the Lakers finished their four-game road trip by winning two of their final three. “The game’s such a beautiful thing.”

Stephen Curry on Russell Westbrook: I'm there for him

Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook is not having his best year in his first season playing in his hometown, and it appears support is minimal. But, he does have the support of one of his peers. “I told him when we played them in L.A. a couple of days ago that I respect how he’s handled the whole year, just in terms of everything he’s been saying and how he’s been handling himself and protecting his family,” Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry told Yahoo Sports. “It is the nature of the beast. And in a certain perspective, they build you up to break you down. The real ones who have done amazing things in this league know what that means. He’s a professional, and I’m proud of the way he’s conducting himself, and I’m there for him.”

Westbrook, a 14-year veteran, nine-time All-Star and former league MVP, said the derision is nothing new for him but that he and his wife, Nina, are speaking out for two reasons: To defend the honor of the family name and to protect their children. “I 100 percent stand behind my wife and how she’s feeling,” Westbrook said after Los Angeles’ 117-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. “When it comes to basketball, I don’t mind the criticism of missing and making shots. But the moment it becomes where my name is getting shamed, it becomes an issue.

“I’ve kind of let it go in the past because it never really bothered me. But it really kind of hit me the other day. Me and my wife were at teacher-parent conferences for my son. And the teacher told me, ‘Noah, he’s so proud of his last name. He writes it everywhere. He writes it on everything. He tells everybody and walks around and says, ‘I’m Westbrook.’ … And I kind of sat there in shock, and it hit me like, ‘Damn. I can no longer allow people [to besmirch my name].'”

“It affects them even going to games,” he said. “Like, I don’t even want to bring my kids to the game because I don’t want them to hear people calling their dad nicknames and other names for no reason because he’s playing the game that he loves. And it’s gotten so bad where my family don’t even want to go to home games, to any game … and it’s just super unfortunate, man. And it’s super upsetting to me. “I’m at a point where I’m going to continue to address it. It’s just unfortunate.”

Russell Westbrook's wife reveals she has been sent obscenities and death threats

The Los Angeles Lakers have been arguably the NBA’s most disappointing team relative to expectations entering the season. Los Angeles had title hopes coming into the season but have fallen short of that lofty goal, as they currently sit at 28-35, good for ninth place in the Western Conference. One of the more frustrating players on the Lakers has been guard Russell Westbrook, who was acquired via a trade this past offseason. Westbrook has often been booed by fans, which isn’t a surprising reaction considering the passion of some fans. However, sometimes, fans take it too far, which is exactly what happened with Westbrook and his family. Westbrook received some ‘death wishes’ from fans. The All-Star guard’s wife Nina sounded off on such fans with emotional messages on Twitter.

Russell Westbrook’s wife Nina spoke about how ‘obscenities’ and ‘death wishes’ have been sent the way of she and her family. That is something that should never happen in the sports world, but unfortunately seems to be happening to the Westbrook family. Westbrook’s wife went on to speak about how she supports her husband through all the negativity he receives and that she hopes that the players who come after him don’t have to deal with what he has had to endure.

'Impossible' for Lakers to bring back Russell Westbrook next season?

Jousting with reporters in press conferences is apparently not the lone source of pushback these days from under-fire guard Russell Westbrook. There has been no shortage of defiance behind the scenes, I’m told, when coaches and teammates have tried to broach changes in role or approach with the former MVP. For all the obvious complexities involved in trying to move Westbrook when he’s owed a whopping $47 million next season at age 34, one league source described the idea of bringing him back next season as “impossible” based on current tension levels. The question then becomes: If the Lakers can’t construct a palatable trade, do they try to just buy Westbrook out? Or waive and stretch him?

LeBron James was a strong advocate for the trade that brought Westbrook to Hollywood and thus has to wear his considerable slice of culpability for how poorly things are working out. Yet one source did point out at least one counter on James’ behalf, noting that he was also one of the organization’s staunchest Alex Caruso fans and badly wanted the Lakers to re-sign the defensive-minded guard. The Lakers, despite all of their considerable revenue streams, refused to offer a contract on par with the four-year, $37 million deal Caruso landed from Chicago because of the luxury-tax implications. The injuries that have limited Davis to 37 games have done the most damage to the Lakers’ 17th-ranked defense, but Caruso’s departure was another big hit. 1:28

Frank Vogel on possibly bringing Russell Westbrook off the bench: 'We've talked about everything'

Afterward, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said the coaching staff has discussed several options to help get the team back on track, including the possibility of bringing Westbrook off the bench. “We’ve talked about everything,” Vogel said when asked if the Lakers have discussed the idea of having Westbrook come off the bench. Asked if it is something that could be seen moving forward, Vogel repeated himself: “We’ve talked about everything.”

James Worthy on Russell Westbrook: 'He's got to stop feeling sorry for himself'

“When he’s thinking a lot and passing up shots, I know he’s not knocking down shots and I think it’s because he’s hesitating. He’s thinking about it too much. “I like players who take accountability. Russ knows he can play, he just needs to play like Russ can play and stop thinking about the distractions sometimes the fans don’t give him the just he deserves. He’s got to let all that go and just go out and be aggressive, get to the hole, take the shot when it’s available without hesitation. “I think he can get back into a style of play that we want from him. He’s got to stop feeling sorry for himself and just go out and get rebounds, play defense and I think Russ can get back to being productive player that we need.”

Shaquille O'Neal on Lakers: 'It looks like they're quitting'

“When you’re a Laker, and you’re a big-name player, and you’re playing in L.A., all opponents, I don’t care who they are, they’re going to be coming into L.A. and they’re going to be playing above their heads,” said Shaq. “And you can never make an excuse for lack of effort.” Moreover, O’Neal went further and called them quitters, stating he didn’t want to use that word, but that’s just how the team looks in his eyes.  “You’ve gotta at least put more effort into it,” he said. “I don’t mind losing, but when you don’t have a lot of effort, it shows that, I hate to use this word, it looks like they’re quitting.”

As bleak as things might seem for the Lakers after Tuesday’s 109-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks — the 10th defeat in the Lakers’ past 13 games — dropped Los Angeles just two games away from falling out of the play-in tournament altogether, LeBron James insisted he won’t give up on the season. “We still have games to play,” he said after the Mavs finished on a 15-4 run in the final 7½ minutes of the fourth quarter to win it. “Until you stomp me out, cut my head off, bury me 12 feet under, then I got a chance. So that’s my confidence.”

“We win games to get us in [the play-in tournament], we’re gonna prepare, we’ll be ready. But we got to try to win one basketball game right now,” the four-time NBA champion said after the Dallas game. “That’s what we’re really trying to… how we can figure out to get over the hump and with injuries. We played nine guys but it really was eight. I think Dwight played four minutes, Baze gave us some great minutes, his 17 minutes was great. But we really only played seven guys. “We’re just trying to figure out a way how we can get over the hump. We play some good basketball today, like I said, for about the whole third quarter was great.

According to Bill Simmons, the Lakers team owner “stood up” to LeBron James’ camp as a way to right the ship amid the tension growing internally within the franchise. “Jeanie Buss is a tough lady, man. She’s been in the league since the early eighties and I think at some point she stood up to those guys and was like, ‘No, stop. You don’t get to undermine all this. Stop. You’re here. You’re under contract next year. What are we doing?’ and I think they had a powwow, that’s what I heard. But I think she stood up for at least something. For them to unwind last week and pretend they weren’t chaos agents was really strange.”

“I look at the Pelicans, they’re all plus twenty-something and the Lakers I look at their plus/minus, they’re all in the negative, even Reaves who never is in the negative. It just goes on to show you there’s something going on in this team that they cannot shake or they are not willing to shake it. “Right now they’re embarrassed, they’re not where they’re supposed to be, they see a steady climb they got to make, they got to really do the impossible right now. And I just don’t see the mentality to fight for it. Hopefully, they do have it, but I don’t see it.”

Russell Westbrook on Lakers fans: 'If they boo, they can take their ass home'

Russell Westbrook, the L.A. native whom the franchise completely overhauled its roster to acquire in the offseason, was asked if that type of reception from Lakers fans would be something he takes home with him, after his team lost for the ninth time in its past 12 games. “Nah,” he said. “Take it home? For what? S—. Take it home? I got three beautiful kids at my house. Why would I take it home? If they boo, they can take their ass home. I ain’t worried about that. It doesn’t bother me none. … “I can only answer if I take them home: No. But as for our team, I don’t think it’s something we got to deal with. And kind of move forward.”

“I think each play we get down on ourselves too much and just not playing as hard as we can,” said Russell Westbrook, who had 16 points, one assist and seven turnovers. “Teams are coming in and playing harder. And I believe that’s kind of the scouting report, just play harder than them and see what happens and it’s working. Until we determine and have a determination that we’re not going to allow it, especially on our home floor, it will continue to happen to us.”

The Lakers were outscored 44-25 in the third quarter — when the boos first started to be heard from the stands — and trailed by as many as 32 at one point. “We’re not shooting the ball well from the perimeter, and the paint’s clogged, and we’re trying to force inside — with the pass, with the bounce — and it’s leading to a lot of turnovers,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after his team shot 7-for-34 from 3 (20.6%). “And we’re not moving that well defensively. So, we weren’t very good on either end tonight.”

But Paul strongly refuted the notion that there is any sort of divide between James and the Lakers, or that these were all signs of a grand exit plan that’s yet to come. And when the meeting was all done, one in which Paul said some of the time was even spent “laughing and catching up,” he says they all found themselves in a more productive, peaceful place. “I just don’t think (communicating indirectly) is the right way of doing business,” Paul, who also represents the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, told The Athletic. “And I don’t think that’s who we are, who LeBron is. We have a great partnership with the Lakers. The Klutch Sports Group and the Lakers don’t have an issue. Rich Paul and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. LeBron James and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. And Jeanie Buss and LeBron and Rich Paul don’t have an issue. It’s very simple. Very simple. So, you know, whoever put that type of stuff out, and people run with it, I think it’s unfair to the Lakers.”

Rich Paul meets with Lakers brass, says LeBron James is committed to Lakers

After Pelinka resisted making any deals at the trade deadline, James’ own public comments — raising the possibility of a return to Cleveland and praising Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti — started to fuel speculation that he could leave in free agency in 2023. Paul has privately downplayed that possibility, and told the Lakers that James is committed to playing his part in helping the Lakers to become championship contenders again, sources said.

That next player was Kobe Bryant. With him soon came a young agent named Rob Pelinka. But for as important as Bryant was to the Lakers, sources inside the organization have long said that not even the legendary Black Mamba wielded as much power within the organization as James now has. Bryant was never able to strong-arm the Lakers to make a move like the one James helped orchestrate for Westbrook, which has proven to be an outright disaster. The Lakers did trade Shaquille O’Neal to placate Kobe before he hit free agency in 2004, but when he was under contract like James is now they did not always give in to his demands.
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