Failure to make every right decision isn't failure. If it were, front office jobs in sports would be week-long day camps for adults.
But man, did the Lakers screw up in hindsight and man, are the Celtics better off for it.
Had the Lakers gone all-in on Kemba Walker to pair with LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the start of whenever teams do their tampering way before free agency, they'd have their super team. The next few years of titles might already be determined and the Celtics would be in absolute purgatory, having experienced a net loss of two star players.
The Lakers didn't do that, though. They swung for the fences with Kawhi Leonard, knowingly waiting it out while the other free agents relocated throughout the league.
I asked Abby Chin on Boston Sports Tonight Monday if we should be more critical of the Lakers for not going for Kemba or another max player out of the gate. She rationally outlined just how stacked a trio of LeBron, AD and Kawhi would be and added what I might be overlooking: that the Lakers had to have thought they were getting Kawhi. Otherwise, why risk it, right?
I get those points, and I really hadn't considered the last one strongly enough. I'm not sure if it's enough to save the Lakers from criticism. This is a league where, as we've seen more times recently than I've liked, even being under contract doesn't mean jack when it comes to a player slipping away from a team. Short of a verbal commitment — another thing we've even seen doesn't mean anything — it was arrogant of the Lakers to assume they had Kawhi in the days leading up to free agency.
As time went on without him signing, they should have at least considered the possibility that Kawhi was waiting for one of the other teams to add another star. If they still felt good about their odds by the end of the week, they were as foolish as observers like us, only they were actually talking to the guy.
Saying their decision blew up in their face would be a stretch, but they could have been the odds-on favorite to win it all next season rather than sitting with the Clippers, Bucks and Sixers near the top of a wonderfully close field.
Either way, it's worked out great for the Celtics. Boston isn't at the top of that list with the aforementioned teams, but if they hadn't gotten Walker? Yikes. Maybe they'd have gotten Nikola Vucevic. Even with Vucevic, they'd be looking at either accepting fate as a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team while young players hopefully developed or a trade of young players for a star. Either way, it would be a much bigger step backwards than the situation in which they currently find themselves.
It also helps that Kawhi got the hell out of the conference.
Maybe Kemba wouldn't have had interest in the Lakers, but considering he said he came to Boston for the ability to win championships, why in the world would he pass on a potential opportunity to play with LeBron and Anthony Davis?
The Lakers didn't know that Kawhi was going to pull off what he was able to orchestrate with the Clippers. They also didn't know that Kawhi was going to join their group. The way the Lakers navigated the unknown ended up being one of the heaviest dominoes of this bonkers NBA offseason.
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