You didn’t have to be in the Los Angeles Lakers locker room to know that the team was gutted internally by the trade deadline and it pretty much killed team morale just enough to keep the team from qualifying for the postseason.
Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been on the end of trades before, spoke to Bleacher Report and explained how players on the team felt when he thought LeBron James trying to get rid of them made everybody feel.
James missed 18 of the next 19 games with a groin injury. He returned to a team in disarray thanks to trade rumors that had half the young roster being shipped to New Orleans for Anthony Davis.
“Even some of the old guys were affected,” Rondo says. “I can’t say a name, but I remember me and the guy were on the bench for the Atlanta game right before the [All-Star] break. The guy was cussing and talking bad about the situation during the game. I was like: ‘Snap out of it. That shit is over with. We’ll get through it. As vets, we have to move forward and not focus on what the young guys are focusing on. Set an example.’ It was a little crazy to see a vet distraught over that.
“Guys may have felt like, ‘Oh, I need to prove myself so I won’t be traded’ or ‘They’re going to trade me anyway.’ Each game you didn’t know what the mentality was for those guys: ‘Should I give my all to this organization that is about to trade me in two days?’”Loading...
The rumors were compounded by the fact that James had dinner with Davis, gushed about how much he’d like to play with him and is represented by the same agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group.
“Every guy on our team, LeBron was their favorite player growing up,” Rondo says. “Everyone had the shoes, his jersey. You’re the biggest fan in the world. It’s like you’re playing with MJ, and then you get there, and it’s like your mom and dad, or the person that you looked up to and idolized, doesn’t want you. And then to have that sitting in your gut, not knowing. Guys aren’t at the age where they can have a man-to-man conversation versus texting you. Everybody wants to text you: ‘How you doing? We cool?’ People don’t understand how to have a real conversation and talk out problems.”
Team president Magic Johnson’s abrupt resignation sent another ripple through the locker room.
“We walked in, talked about it a little as a team, tried to focus on the game,” he says. “But it was such a distraction you really couldn’t focus.”
If the Lakers sign no other player to the team, the current squad is more than able to qualify for the postseason.
Before LeBron James got hurt in December, they were sitting pretty at the #4 seed in the Western Conference, but would be in the 10th position once he returned. Just making the playoffs, however, is not the goal for this proud franchise.
They are looking to make a big splash in free agency and try to get a title out of LeBron James before he retires.