One of the funniest arcs of this NBA offseason was watching the Lakers roster coalesce around its new centerpiece, each new contract landing like a punchline. LeBron James is here now—the rest of his California-loving superteam is just dawdling, right? When does Paul George’s flight get in? Can’t Kawhi Leonard frown his way out of San Antonio?
But as the former picked Oklahoma City and late-phase Russell Westbrook over home, and the latter got shipped to the Raptors, the Woj and Shams bombs continued to drop, with perfect comedic timing. When the dust finally settled, the Lakers around LeBron were ... the same old sort of promising youths and a few new consummate bozos. All veterans of the craft, where the craft might be best defined as “possessing useful basketball skills while being an unworkable colleague and/or human being.”
All four of these players arrive in Los Angeles with different recent histories. Javale McGee, after proving himself a useful cog in the Warriors’ evil empire, now has two rings to distance himself from his Shaqtin’ days. Rajon Rondo remains prone to alienate anyone in a 10-mile blast radius, but he can still surge to life in the playoffs, at least when spoon-feeding a dunk machine. Michael Beasley is still hung up on the confusing part of his job where all the teammates run down the court to “protect” the other hoop that is mystifyingly hung there, but he can still be relied upon for an instant bucket at a minute’s notice. Lance Stephenson, is, well, Lance Stephenson. Yesterday they all assembled for a photo at the Lakers’ Media Day, making the obvious joke on their roster explicit for the world’s enjoyment. So what does LeBron James believe about the characters that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka assembled around him?
“Misunderstood, under-appreciated, determined.” They also basically all love the ball in their hands and can’t be counted on to shoot outside 12 feet, but, oh well—a leader is supposed to inspire his charges. Onward and upward, MUD.