By Sterling Pingree
Lebron is the belle of the ball once again. Every four years in this country, we have a presidential election and every four years Lebron James becomes a free agent and gets courted like a southern belle from a bygone era. The rumor has run rampant for over a year now that Lebron is going to go to Los Angeles and join the Lakers so he can set up the multi-media second act of his career. Sunday night he made it official, signing a 4-year deal to become a Laker. As a Celtics fan, nothing makes me happier than to see King James leave the Eastern Conference, but should he go to Los Angeles? By all means. Should he join the Lakers? Well you see, here’s the thing about that.
The Lakers are trying to rebuild and as with Dr. Jerry Buss before them, Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson don’t want to take the time for a painstaking and time consuming rebuild as most franchises would have to. Drafting and developing has never been the modus operandi for the Lakers as they prefer to spend their way back into relevancy and it has worked more times than not. They’d love to have Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard and Boogie Cousins too, (why not) and try to topple Golden St. next season.
What the Lakers have going against them is that not only do they need to bring in the right pieces in to surround the King, they have to move the right players out of town. When the Celtics traded 7 players to the Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett in 2007, what made that team championship caliber was that they gave up enough to get KG, but kept Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, forming a starting five that made sense.
What people are forgetting is that there is another team in Los Angeles that if I’m Lebron, interests me more than the Lakers. I know, on paper choosing the Clippers over the Lakers isn’t the most glamorous proposition but think about it, if Lebron signed with the Clippers, he could essentially write the history of a team that has floundered since moving to LA from Buffalo in 1978. The Clippers would be a blank slate for Lebron James to build from the ground up. The Clips have one of the richest owners in the league in Steve Ballmer, a respected coach who has won a championship in Doc Rivers and now that Deandre Jordan has opted out, the Clippers have no bad contracts tying them down. The Clippers are a blank slate for Lebron the GM to build however he sees fit.
Ballmer wants to own a winner, if it meant getting Lebron James on his roster, don’t you think he’d give him autonomy to do whatever he wanted? Part of that would be changing the name and probably the team colors. We see companies do this all the time; brand feeling a little stagnant? Change the logo, the color scheme, start putting your beer in a retro can and viola! If Lebron had chosen the Clippers, he could’ve changed the name to whatever he wanted, brought in the players he wanted and eventually given the franchise enough of an identity that they could’ve finally moved out of their mom’s basement and gotten their own arena. The House That Lebron Built!
Instead, Lebron chose to do what star players have done for the last 45 years and play for the Lakers. But if you’re Lebron James, what kind of impact can you make on a team that has 16-championship banners and more statues outside of Staples Center than most wax museums? Magic, Kareem and Kobe all won five titles in Los Angeles. Lebron isn’t going to do that. Heck, Shaq won three, is Lebron going to do that during his four-year deal?
Lebron James is going to move the needle in Los Angeles and there are sure to be more dominos to fall in the coming days as there is no way that this decision is anything but the tip of the ice berg. But after spending his entire career out in front of the Eastern Conference, Lebron James finally finds himself in the thick of the very difficult Western Conference and attempts to create the latest NBA super power.
As a Celtics fan, I wish him a lot of luck and thank him for relinquishing your strangle hold on the Finals.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.