The blame for the Los Angeles Lakers’ failure to acquire veteran DeMar DeRozan should go to LeBron James, according to Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
Johnson explained that James’ preference in acquiring Russell Westbrook negated Johnson’s efforts to get DeRozan signed by the Lakers.
“When I think about it, the blame that he’s gotta take is the fact that DeRozan ended up in Chicago and not with the Lakers,” Johnson said. “DeRozan wanted to play for the Lakers, and when I got the call from his agent, I called the Lakers, said, ‘Hey, he wants to come home.’ And DeRozan could have been a Laker instead of a Bull.
“We could have made that deal, but when Russell and LeBron and them started talking, that’s when they nixed that deal and went with Westbrook, and he became a Laker instead of DeRozan.”
The fact that DeRozan was a free agent at the time would have allowed the Lakers to avoid giving up a huge amount of talent in adding him, which the team ended up doing in its deal for Westbrook.
To acquire Westbrook, the Lakers gave up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma.
The team’s addition of Westbrook was initially seen as a key building block toward another NBA title. However, his massive contract resulted in the Lakers signing veterans that haven’t effectively filled the injury-related absences of James and Anthony Davis this season.
After DeRozan was no longer in the Lakers’ plans, he ended up with the Chicago Bulls, where he’s had a strong 2021-22 season. The 32-year-old is averaging 28.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
Just last week, DeRozan put together a remarkable performance in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers by scoring 50 points.
DeRozan grew up in Compton, Calif. and played collegiately at the University of Southern California. His connection to the L.A. area probably would have made him a fan favorite on the Lakers.
Of course, everything looks better in hindsight. Whether James agrees with Johnson’s assessment is unknown, but Lakers fans are left to ponder what might have been.