It's become familiar now, the Lakers pitching to high-end players, waiting nervously for several days and then watching as they commit to another team.
Losing out on Aldridge was particularly devastating because he disliked their two-hour presentation almost from the start, wondering when the talk of branding opportunities in Los Angeles would transition into serious basketball talk, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
The Lakers botched it so badly Tuesday that they requested, and received, a second meeting with him two days later. It was centered entirely on basketball and was "much better," according to a person familiar with Aldridge's thinking, but there would not be recovery from the initial failure.
The Lakers were said to be in a "two-horse race" for Aldridge's services before free agency began but couldn't bring home a big free-agent prize for a third consecutive summer.
They have only two big men with
The Lakers have the salary-cap space to absorb Indiana center
The Lakers could also resurrect trade talks with Sacramento, through the
The Lakers didn't only miss out on Aldridge. They also met with DeAndre Jordan, who chose Dallas, and
There are only reserves left among free-agent big men at this point, including Kosta Kofous, who played for Memphis last season, and
It's become an unsettling pattern for the Lakers, 16-time NBA champions but completely unable to sign anybody of worth to upgrade their team in recent off-seasons.
At almost the same time,
In fact, the only big-name player the Lakers signed in recent years was Bryant, who gladly accepted a two-year, $48.5-million contract extension in December 2013 before returning from an Achilles injury. For all his greatness over 19 NBA seasons, Bryant is now nothing more than an injury-prone part-time player. He turns 37 next month and has one more year on his contact for a cap-crippling $25 million.
Aldridge turns 30 in almost two weeks and would have represented the return of a post presence to the Lakers. He averaged a career-high 23.4 points last season and added 10.2 rebounds a game, showing no sign of slowing down after making the All-Star team a fourth consecutive season.
He enjoyed Houston's analytics-laden pitch, complete with countless on-court projections and analyses, but really connected with the Spurs.
San Antonio sold him on becoming the cornerstone of the franchise, along with recently signed
Phoenix also made an impression by agreeing to terms with center
The Lakers were left with only what-ifs and what-nexts.