NBA Rundown Week 19: LA Lakers' decision about LeBron James, Milwaukee Bucks reign in the East and more

“Off with his head,” screamed Jeff van Gundy into his microphone on Sunday as the NBA gasped collectively in horror. This was, after all, LeBron James he was talking about.

Okay, we’re exaggerating. Van Gundy did not really say that, although he did say something equally outrageous, in a metaphorical sense: he wanted the Los Angeles Lakers to consider trading James and rebuild their roster when the current NBA season draws to a close.

 NBA Rundown Week 19: LA Lakers decision about LeBron James, Milwaukee Bucks reign in the East and more

File image of Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James. Reuters

“In the offseason, they have to rebuild this roster, right? I think they (Lakers) need to explore trading LeBron for getting as much as they can,” Van Gundy said. “... You've got to get on the right timeline. If I could trade him (to) the Clippers, into cap space, which would give me a better chance to get (Kevin) Durant or (Kawhi) Leonard, would I not do that?”

He went on to add since NBA franchises are businesses, the LA franchise should do whatever it deems appropriate for the business.

Just how radical the thought is can be gauged by the fact that even his co-commentator on the ABC broadcast immediately stuttered, “What are you doing? Seriously! LeBron James does not get traded. If I am Jeanie Buss (team owner), Magic Johnson (President of Basketball Operations) and Rob Pelinka (General Manager), the best thing for the business is to not trade LeBron!”

Asking questions about James’ role in where the team finds itself — 11th in the Western Conference, seven wins away from NBA Playoffs spots — is fair, but asking that the Lakers drop a player that the legendary franchise brought on board with the sole aim of rebuilding themselves around him surely is blasphemy.

Kyrie’s sympathy

It may well be that the Lakers won’t make it to the Playoffs. This will mean that James will not be in the Playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

While that will be a feeling that will take some getting used to for James, at least his situation is garnering some sympathy among rivals.

Having spearheaded the Boston Celtics to an easy 120-107 victory over their traditional rivals, the Lakers, on Sunday, James’ one-time Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving said, “I feel for him. Obviously just missing a lot of time, as well as Brandon Ingram. But Bron as always been a championship contender. And he's such a great player, such a great teammate. When you’re not eligible to qualify for the playoffs, it’s hard, I can only imagine. Like I said, I feel for him.”

That’s another feeling that will take some time getting used to for James: rivals feeling sympathy for him.

And while on the topic of unfamiliar territory, James has been put on minutes restriction earlier this week a day after he leapfrogged the legendary Michael Jordan into fourth place in the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He’s just behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant.

But for the rest of the season, he’ll have to suffice with 28-32 minutes per game, rather than the 35.6 minutes per game he was averaging before the defeat to Denver Nuggets.

The Bucks don’t stop here

As the Lakers — reeling with the absence of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who are both set to miss the rest of the season — struggled against the Celtics on Sunday, former Laker Brooke Lopez, playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, gave a demonstration of just why he would have been critical for the Lakers this season.

He blew away the Charlotte Hornets with a 25-point blitz — 18 of which came in the same quarter — as the Bucks registered a 131-114 victory, which made them the first team this season to reach 50 wins.

The Bucks, powered by the Giannis Antetokounmpo, are currently on top in an Eastern Conference left wide open by the departure of James in the offseason.

Quite a lot of things have gone right for the Bucks this season. Besides Antetokounmpo’s form and Lopez’s shooting, they were also handed the good news that Eric Bledsoe had agreed to a four-year, $70 million contract extension.

Now with a Playoffs spot more or less sealed, the franchise’s big task is now to make it to the NBA Finals, especially with the East looking more open than ever before in the past few years.

Whodunit?

Since this has been a riveting week, it is befitting to end this week’s post with a conspiracy theory.

As you have probably heard and read multiple times this season, the Lakers’ failed attempts to lure the New Orleans Pelicans to trade Anthony Davis in exchange for the choicest selection of their players led to the Lakers shooting themselves in the foot.

The destabilised franchise has since spiraled out of control, and are currently only mathematically in with a chance of making it to the Playoffs. And while the first few reports claimed that the Pelicans had been systematically leaking news of the Lakers’ various offers to the media so as to destabilise the LA franchise (as a payback for them courting under-contract Davis), new reports have claimed that it was, in fact, the Lakers who had shot themselves in the foot by leaking the stories of their various offers to the Pelicans.

Clearly, there’s still a lot of posturing going on with respect to the failed trade which grabbed the attention of the entire league. But was it the Lakers or the Pelicans who leaked the stories? Or was it both teams? We’ll probably never find out.

Updated Date: Mar 10, 2019 23:27:04 IST