The 2018-2019 Los Angeles Lakers season, as we now know, was a complete and utter mess. And yet, somehow, previously unknown details continue to trickle out, a never-ending stream of chaos and disfunction that has no ending in sight.
In an article published to ESPN on Tuesday by writer Baxter Holmes, many of those aforementioned details are brought to light, including a particularly concerning one involving Rich Paul, the agent for both LeBron James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the commissioner of the NBA.
The minute James arrived in Los Angeles, rumors about head coach Luke Walton’s job security began to circulate. And when the Lakers got off to a rocky start, the volume increased. Per Holmes’ report, a month into the season, Paul just so happened to be at the same restaurant where James’ business associate Maverick Carter was having a meeting with Adam Silver.
Paul approached their table.
In November, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Maverick Carter, LeBron’s longtime business partner, met for lunch. James’ agent, Rich Paul, was seated at a nearby table, and at one point, approached Silver to complain about Walton, multiple sources familiar with the interaction told ESPN. Paul said he didn’t believe Walton was the right coach for the Lakers. Silver shrugged off the remark and asked whom Paul thought would be the right coach. Paul suggested Tyronn Lue.
For those that believe James and his agent are partly running the show in Laker Land, this doesn’t help to dispel those rumors. Magic Johnson berated Walton in the locker room following a loss in late October, and some in the Lakers organization wondered if Paul was behind Johnson’s anger, per Holmes. Lue was the top candidate for the Lakers coaching vacancy this offseason before reportedly walking away from negotiations when the Lakers offered him a three-year contract. Paul’s fingerprints are everywhere.
Now, Paul denied this story and others about him — except for the one about him riding the team charter — so this is his word against sources. It seems almost unbelievable, but then again, so does most everything that’s happened with the Lakers this season.
There’s a certain level of compromise you have to make when you add LeBron to your franchise, in terms of the access and influence you grant to those in his inner-circle. It’s just part of the deal. But the Lakers opened the flood gates and are going to need a hell of a lot of help to close them again.