The grimaces. Kevin Love grabbing his shoulder, Rajon Rondo grabbing some pine.
For the two former All-Stars, the playoffs were a short and frustrating end to difficult seasons. Both left the only teams they’d known and found their new homes less than happy.
Now, Lakers fans are hoping Love and Rondo’s misfortunes mean major gains for the purple and gold.
Rondo will be a free agent this summer and Love can opt out of his contract too. Dallas coach Rock Carlisle said he doesn’t expect Rondo to return, and the point guard reportedly has been interested in signing with the Lakers since he was in Boston. Plus, Kobe Bryant is a big fan of Rondo and has publicly recruited him.
However, the Lakers are among the many around the NBA who are wary of Rondo’s attitude, and Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding reports that they’d be interested in signing him only at the right price. Rondo made $12.9 million this year, and Ding estimates the Lakers may have $22 million to spend this summer.
Rondo’s flame-out in Dallas could work to the Lakers’ advantage, as Yahoo!/FOX Sports 1 insider Adrian Wojnarowski reports there are no max contract offers for Rondo on the horizon. If they can get him at a bargain price, a rejuvenated Rondo could give Bryant the backcourt help he’s lacked in the absence of a healthy Steve Nash, and Bryant could be the veteran leader the tempermental young star would respect.
Likewise, Lakers fans have viewed Love’s rocky affair with LeBron and the Cavs from afar, hoping every wedge driven between them might drive the former UCLA star back to LA.
Despite their turbulent first season together, it appeared Love and the Cavs could make it meaningless with a run at the championship, and Love showed flashes of his All-Star form as the Cavs swept the Celtics in the first round. But Love’s shoulder injury suffered in Game 4 most likely will sideline him for the rest of the postseason, spoiling his chance at creating more chemistry in Cleveland and hurting his hopes for getting a ring.
Asked if Love is leaning toward returning, James on Tuesday said "That’s a question I can’t answer."
However, Love may not need the Cavs to win a championship to convince him to stay in Cleveland. He has a $16.4 million player’s option for next season, and after this disappointing season, he might not get a better offer than that on the market. But should Love opt out and the Lakers make a run at him, the Cavs may not try too hard to bring him back — especially if they win it all without him.
For now, Lakers fans can only hope more misfortune follows their coveted free agents, as DeAndre Jordan (that gut-wrenching tip-in!) and LaMarcus Aldridge also get closer to first-round exits. That puts them closer to free-agent exits, and if their stock drops just enough, the Lakers could land a couple of big names in free agency.
And to make that happen, Lakers fans will shamelessly hope for the worst until then.