How the Lakers lost LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge will not sign with the Lakers because he was unimpressed by their Tuesday night presentation, according to a person familiar with the situation.
He met with them the moment free agency began, considered them part of a “two-horse race” with the San Antonio Spurs and “wanted to be wowed” but was actually turned off by the lack of analytics on the basketball side of their pitch, the person added.
Aldridge, who turns 30 in two weeks, engaged with the Lakers’ presentation team, asking numerous questions throughout the two-hour meeting, but was noncommittal about a future with them when it ended. The Lakers would have given him a maximum four-year, $80-million contract.
The Lakers logged a long day Wednesday, meeting with former Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe at noon in Washington and traveling back to Los Angeles for a sit-down in the evening with Clippers free-agent center DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan was considered a longshot from the start, seemingly more drawn to Dallas or the Clippers, and found the Lakers’ pitch to be “somewhat underwhelming,” according to a person familiar with the situation. Jordan almost sympathized with the Lakers, feeling they had been on a “whirlwind” the previous 24 hours, the person added.
It was unclear what Monroe thought of the Lakers’ production, which involved fewer executives in the room than the Aldridge meeting. Monroe, a reliable scorer and rebounder but not a rim protector, met with several other teams, including New York.
The Lakers were also intrigued by Kevin Love, but he announced Wednesday he would return to Cleveland, accepting a five-year deal worth an estimated $110 million.
In the Lakers’ pitch to Aldridge, Kobe Bryant spoke for a few minutes, saying he envisioned Aldridge working with him the same way Pau Gasol did, a message that apparently didn’t resonate even though Bryant recruited Aldridge with phone calls and texts in the weeks leading up to the meeting.
Bryant, for his part, wasn’t contentious or abrasive like he was two years ago when he sat across the table from Dwight Howard and tried to administer his version of tough love in a free-agent meeting that went sour. Bryant did not take part in the pitch to Jordan, nor did some executives present for the Aldridge presentation.
Aldridge also sat down with Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix, and was notably impressed by the analytics part of the Rockets’ plans. It didn’t necessarily mean he would sign with Houston but symbolized another example of what he wanted and didn’t get with the Lakers.
The Lakers contended that their analytics pitch would have been stronger if they had a better roster last season and privately expressed envy that Houston’s presentation could be bolstered by projections and on-court analysis of a team that already had James Harden and Howard.
The Lakers deeply coveted the services of Aldridge, a four-time All-Star who averaged a career-high 23.4 points last season for the Portland Trail Blazers, along with 10.2 rebounds, and would have represented the return of a post presence after Gasol left last year to take less money in Chicago.
The Lakers talked a lot about branding opportunities in the city of Los Angeles and tried to push their youth movement, but Aldridge simply wanted more in-depth basketball talk.
He was impressed by the Spurs’ plan, which outlined how the franchise would be built around him and 24-year-old Kawhi Leonard, driven forward by the need for another championship to send off Tim Duncan with a sixth ring.
And yet the Spurs had a touch of old school in them, clearly trickling down from no-nonsense Coach Gregg Popovich, who seemed perfectly fine with not getting the first meeting with Aldridge.
The Lakers were with him until about 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Spurs taking their turn Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.
“I’m not calling anyone at midnight,” Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News on Monday. “I’ll be in bed. And if that’s the difference in someone coming or not coming, then I don’t want them.”
The Spurs also jettisoned Tiago Splitter’s contract in an agreed-upon deal with Atlanta, creating the necessary cap space to sign Aldridge.
Phoenix made an impact by showing up to its Aldridge meeting with newly signed center Tyson Chandler, according to Yahoo Sports, an obvious sign Aldridge could stay at his preferred power-forward position.
The Lakers have only two post players with NBA experience on the current roster — center Robert Sacre and power forward-center Tarik Black. They drafted Wyoming power forward Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th pick but passed on Duke center Jahlil Okafor to take Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick.
They created a larger vacuum down low by declining to exercise Jordan Hill’s $9-million option but had to do it to clear enough space for a potential Aldridge signing. Hill had not agreed to terms with another team as of Wednesday night, and neither had former Lakers power forward Ed Davis.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.
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