The Los Angeles Lakers did not expect their 2018-19 season to go the way it did. Between the various injuries, the failed trade for Anthony Davis and everything in-between, things clearly did not go as planned.
Adding fuel to the fire is how LeBron James grew more distant from his teammates as the season progressed and how they later became distrustful of him.
Per The Athletic, James’ presence became less while he was recovering from a groin injury:
It was during this time that James became less present around the team. The Lakers struggled without him, naturally, but James was not really around. His injury did not allow him to travel, and he would arrive at home games moments before tip-off. Once with a glass of red wine in hand.
According to the report, this was when “players started to look at James a bit differently.”
James’ lack of presence stood in contrast to that of Rajon Rondo, who continued to remain alongside the team while recovering from a sprained finger.
[Rondo] shot left-handed in post-practice shooting games and hung around the locker room. When the Lakers’ plane left for Sacramento the day after Christmas, Rondo met the plane at the airstrip. With cookies.
James would later go on a minutes restriction before finally being shutdown for the remainder of the season.
‘Young players no longer trusted James’
In an attempt to bring another star to pair with James, the Lakers unsuccessfully tried to trade for Davis, who had requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers sent a plethora of offers involving various pieces of their young core and veteran leadership. As the team struggled to return to the playoff race, the trade talks cast a shadow over the locker room.
The Lakers’ reported trade talks loomed over the team roster. Virtually every member of the young core had been linked to a trade for Davis, as had veterans Rondo and Beasley.
Per the report, this is when players began to distrust James.
A schism developed in the locker room. Sources around the team said it was apparent that the young players no longer trusted James, believing he was operating behind the scenes to get them traded to New Orleans.
The Lakers ended the February trade deadline with their young core intact.
The report goes on to describe a tentative deal the Lakers had in place to acquire forward Jabari Parker as well as how president of basketball operations Magic Johnson is seen as an “absentee executive.”
The Lakers play their final game at home against the Portland Trailblazers.
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