UConn’s head coach made a judgment call on the Lakers’ future. It might be hard for James not to do the same. A critical stretch for L.A.’s front office lies ahead.

The Los Angeles Lakers chasing Dan Hurley is like Leonardo DiCaprio trying to date Dua Lipa. Sure, she might meet up for coffee, but he’s a bit old, has a history of short-lived relationships, and can’t offer any spoils that she doesn’t already have. Hurley flew to Los Angeles over the weekend to meet with Lakers brass, but the aging stars, subpar supporting cast, and limited future assets had to have been a turnoff. Now that he has opted to stay with the Connecticut Huskies following his L.A. flirtation, the Lakers will need to lower their standards in their coaching search and re-target JJ Redick or a retread like James Borrego.

How far can a rich history, a glamorous location, and prime-time exposure really go when underneath the Hollywood glitz, the Lakers are in reality a perennial play-in team? You can’t rest on your laurels when you’re no longer a title contender.

Despite the individual brilliance of Anthony Davis, the Lakers posted the 17th-ranked defensive rating this past season. On offense, AD doesn’t shoot 3s and LeBron James, at 39 years old, isn’t quite as dominant as he once was. The Lakers have cracked the top 10 in offensive rating only once during LeBron’s tenure in purple and gold. Critical rotation players such as Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have all left or been traded since the Lakers won the championship in 2020, and their replacements haven’t filled those voids effectively. LeBron and Davis were about as healthy as the Lakers could have hoped for this year, yet they still had to claw their way into the playoffs, only to lose in five games. This may be only the beginning of a downward spiral for the franchise.

It’s also possible the Lakers were simply used by Hurley to gain leverage for a raise with UConn and set a higher bar for a possible future leap to the NBA. The Lakers’ reported six-year, $70 million offer to Hurley was substantial, but not out of UConn’s reach. This relative financial hesitancy was evident a few years ago when Ty Lue was low-balled before he crossed the hallway to the Clippers and their billionaire owner, Steve Ballmer. Jeanie Buss faces unique financial pressures. Unlike many NBA team owners who made their fortunes in other industries before purchasing their teams, the Lakers are a family business and the franchise is their primary source of income.

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