Plaschke: Lakers' decision to draft Bronny James is a costly move toward chaos



It’s historical, it’s heartwarming, it’s the brightest of headlines for a franchise desperately in need of some good news.

But it’s not very smart. And, for two of the main people involved, it’s not very fair.

Thus a wet blanket should be tossed over the Lakers’ engineering of the most celebrated 55th overall pick in NBA draft history.

Yeah, they did it, of course they did it, they drafted an untested 19-year-old kid named Bronny James Thursday to unite him with his father LeBron in becoming the NBA’s first father-son duo.

They did it even though Bronny was ignored by virtually every other NBA team with a chance to draft him.

They did it even though Bronny struggled last season for USC in his return from a cardiac arrest episode that cost him five months.

They did it even though most experts agreed that his game — five points, three rebounds and two assists per appearance for the Trojans — could have used at least another year of college tutoring.

They did it seemingly for the reason they do a lot of things — to keep their superstar happy. LeBron had professed a desire to play with his son, LeBron can opt out of his contract this summer, they probably figured LeBron needed to be kept satisfied at all costs.

But this is seemingly a high price to pay.

Granted, the greatest fee will not come from the Lakers, who, let’s face it, weren’t going to get a star with the 55th pick anyway. This was a no-lose selection that, personnel-wise, cost them nothing.

The steepest cost will also not be affixed to LeBron, who will get to make history and play with his son and where’s the downside in that?

No, the highest price here will be exacted from, sadly, Bronny himself.

All the poetic waxing by commentators about the beauty of a father-son pairing failed to look at it from what could be the son’s point of view.

Does Bronny really need this kind of pressure? Is it really fair to ask him to develop his game while sitting on the same bench as arguably the greatest player in history who also happens to be his father?

Critics will cry “nepotism” with every dribble. Experts will examine his father’s reaction with every shot. It was tough enough for Bronny to play college games with his father attracting all the attention while sitting courtside. Can you imagine the heat he will feel with his father wearing the same uniform and hanging out in a nearby locker?

There will be the one shining moment when they initially take the court together in a regular-season game, probably a blowout where Bronny will enter in the final minutes and LeBron will throw him a pass for an ally-oop dunk and history will be made and everyone will weep.

But aside from that photo op, how can playing with his father feel like anything to Bronny other than constant controlled chaos?

Rare will be the interview where he’s not asked about his father. Even rarer will be the accomplishment that isn’t judged in relation to his father.

Late second-round draft picks are seldom seen and infrequently heard. But because of his proximity to his father, everything Bronny does will be videoed and everything he utters will go viral.

This would be one thing if he was a top draft pick and had the game to endure the scrutiny. But he was the fourth-from-the-last pick in the draft who will essentially still be in basketball school.

He just won’t be learning on the job. He will be learning on the fire.

Even if Bronny spends much of his time with the minor-league South Bay Lakers, the circus will follow him there. Having bravely overcome a frightening medical challenge, this young man deserves a chance to regain his footing on his own time, in his own space. Instead, he has now been stuck under the brightest of lights amid the most aggressive of timetables, obstacle upon obstacle, and how fair is that?

A couple of months ago, when asked about the pre-draft hype in the spring, Bronny acknowledged that, “Yeah, it’s a lot.”

Now, it’s even more.

During the same news conference, Bronny also said, “My dream has always been just to put my name out, make a name for myself, and of course, you know, get to the NBA. I never thought about just playing with my Dad …”

His dream. His name. One name. Not two names. But for now that appears to be a dream impossible.

If this plays out like it appears, for his first act as a Laker, seriously, Bronny might be wise to ask for a trade to Utah or Oklahoma City.

And he’s not mired in this madness alone, as Bronny could be joined in his discomfort by new coach JJ Redick.

Think about it. Redick is trying to connect with his stars. He’s trying to establish a culture. He’s trying to learn how to lead.

The last thing he needs to worry about is managing the overwhelming hype of a second-round draft pick. Once again, not smart and not fair.

How many pregame interview questions will involve Bronny’s progress? How much of the daily attention will be focused on a kid who will rarely play? How often will Redick have to shield his veterans from a rookie’s distraction?

And if Bronny develops quicker than imagined, how much pressure will Redick feel from LeBron’s camp to give the kid more minutes?

In the words of Bronny, for a rookie NBA head coach, yeah, it’s a lot.

By all accounts, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka means well.

He believes in the legacy of the Lakers greatness, and believes this draft pick supports that.

“That feels like something that can be magical,” Pelinka told reporters Thursday. “NBA history should be made in a Laker uniform.”

He believes in the power of this glamour franchise to endure even heightened scrutiny, and believes this move epitomizes that.

”The biggest moments in sports happen with the Lakers, and that’s how we’re built, and we’re excited to see this story unfold,” he said.

As for Bronny and the sweltering spotlight, Pelinka believes the kid can handle it, noting, “Growing up as he’s grown up, there’s a fish bowl, lots of eyes looking at everything you do, he’s been able to handle all of that with an extreme maturity.”

More than anything, it seems obvious Pelinka believes he needs to keep LeBron in a Laker uniform, and he’s betting this pick will ensure that.

It’s a safe bet, but a greatly unsettling bet.

Bronny is coming. LeBron is staying. The circus is starting.



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