LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With the Lakers coming off their sixth straight season missing the playoffs, and still without a head coach, angry fans are holding a protest outside Staples Center Friday demanding changes.
Protesters gathered around noon at the intersection of South Figueroa and West 11th streets. The organizer, fan Charlie Rivers, a University of Arizona graduate student, claims that owner Jeannie Buss has allowed nepotism to dictate the direction of the team.
“The amount of decisions being made right now is basically the decisions of a few people, as a result of nepotism, instead of those with basketball knowledge on how to run a front office, or those with value to the actual game of basketball,” Rivers told CBS2 by phone Thursday night.
Wearing the Lakers signature purple and gold and holding up a sign with an image of LeBron James, one fan told CBSLA the message is clear: the Lakers need help on the court and off.
“You know what, we want a star. We want another star free agent,” he said. “KD [Kevin Durant], Kyrie [Irving].”
Among the chants heard at the rally: “Fire Rambis”, referring to the Lakers’ senior basketball advisor and cult fan favorite Kurt Rambis.
Even Clipper Darrell, the unofficial fan mascot of the Lakers’ cross-town rivals, was on hand to declare the era of the Lakers “over” – which was met with chants of “Clip-pers Suck!”.
The protest comes in the wake of news Wednesday that the Lakers’ top head coaching candidate, Tyronn Lue, had pulled out of contract talks with the team.
The Lakers offered Lue a three-year, $18 million deal, far less than the five-year, $25 million contract he was expecting, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Lakers were also trying to dictate which assistant coaches Lue hired, according to various reports.
Lue was an obvious hire for the Lakers due to his history with star LeBron James and his career as a player for the team. Lue spent three seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers after replacing the fired David Blatt midway through the 2015-16 season. The Cavs went to three straight NBA Finals under Lue, winning the title in 2016.
When superstar LeBron James signed with the Lakers last summer, many expected he would immediately push them into title contention, but that has not been the case. The Lakers have been in a state of turmoil since the midway point of the season, when they made a failed attempt to acquire New Orleans Pelicans superstar forward Anthony Davis by offering the Pelicans nearly all their young talent.
Then, on April 9, just prior to the final game of the regular season, Magic Johnson abruptly announced he was stepping down as president of basketball operations. Johnson told reporters he was resigning even before he informed Buss.
“Somebody’s gonna have to tell my boss,” Johnson said.
Three days later, the 37-45 Lakers parted ways with head coach Luke Walton.