Apparently, the NBA doesn’t mind gambling after all.
After learning of the megadeal over the weekend between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans which saw Anthony Davis finally getting to be LeBron James’ teammate while the Pels got a ton back in return, it made me wonder if Dr. Jerry Buss had risen like Lazerus to save the fallen franchise he had guided to championship status.
As Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner knows all too well given his friendship, the good Doctor was never afraid to gamble and take a risk, be it at the poker table or in the Lakers’ offices. And with his daughter Jeanie signing off on the blockbuster deal, the apple did not fall far from the tree.
Make no mistake about it. This is an enormous gamble on the part of L.A. Everyone knows how gifted A.D. is. When he’s healthy, he’s one of game’s premier players. But the operative word here is “When.”
Since turning pro in 2012, Davis has had plenty of down time with injuries. In seven NBA seasons, the 6-foot-10 center has averaged 66.5 games, meaning he missed 15.5 games every year on the average.
He has had at least one injury per season and he has had just about every kind of ailment you can imagine. He has never played a full NBA season and his highest total of games played is 75, which he did in 2016-17 and again in 2017-18.
Yet the Lakers were willing to part with several of their young players and a number of draft picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Now that’s what I call gambling.
The sports books reacted after bettors started to send it in on the Lakers. The Westgate SuperBook took a $10,000 wager on L.A. at 5-1 and quickly adjusted the Lakers to 7-2, then later 3-1. Other books also lowered their number on the Lakers.
Remember this is all going to change again following whatever craziness unfolds in Brooklyn Thursday at the Draft and again once free agency commences on June 30.
And there’s a bit of a gamble on New Orleans’ part here. Their marquee player has left town. The team is rumored to be on the block to be sold. And let’s not forget what MGM Resorts International chairman Jim Murren said a couple of years ago when he predicted Las Vegas would have its own NBA team within five years. If the Benson family gets its price, it’s bye-bye Big Easy and Viva Las Vegas. Should the Pels get good down the line, New Orleans may not get to see it.
But back to the Lakers for a minute. You’ve got LeBron, who is going to be 35 years old in late December and has had his own injury issues the last couple of years. There’s the Unibrow and his aforementioned documented history of various malaises. There isn’t a whole lot of depth after that and if you’re a Lakers fan and you’re banking on LeBron and A.D. being Batman and Robin and carrying your team back to the NBA Finals next June, you’ve got my respect for your unrelenting devotion to the purple and gold.
Now, could the Lakers find a way to lure another star player to a max contract deal? Perhaps. Maybe Kemba Walker bails on Charlotte and joins the Lakers. But the economics of the NBA seem to indicate that might be tough.
Plus, if you’re a star player, do you want to go to the Lakers and become a third wheel (think Chris Bosh in Miami). Yeah, you might get a ring. But the likelihood is you might be second banana rather than third wheel given Davis’ propensity for being off the court. Enjoy that pressure of having to deliver.
Let’s not forget this is a team which won 37 games this past season with James. Golden State captured the division with 57 wins. Let’s also remember this is a tough conference with Denver, Portland, Houston, the Clippers (Yes, the Clippers), Oklahoma City and Utah all better than the Lakers are and Sacramento and Dallas expected to improve. Do you believe the Lakers can make up 20 games adding one player? Even if the player is a perennial All-Star?
I’ll concede having Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are good pieces and it could form a nice starting five. But since the NBA stopped being an Ironman league long ago, general manager Rob Pelinka better find some live bodies to perform off the bench and give new coach Frank Vogel a fighting chance.
And it’s probably a likely fact Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram weren’t going to be able to combine to close the gap on the Warriors had they stayed. So dealing for Davis makes sense in that regard, though I never like parting with draft picks.
But as we learned with Anthony Bennett, nothing’s guaranteed on draft night.
If I’m the Lakers, I find a shaman or witch doctor who can put a reverse hex on A.D. and try to keep him healthy and upright. After all, who’s to say some Voodoo woman in the French Quarter didn’t beat them to the punch and put a few pins in her Unibrow doll already?
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