Few people expected the best player in basketball and one of the best players of all time to walk into the Staples Center and turn the Los Angeles Lakers into a championship team in his first year. Fewer people expected them to be 2-5 in their first seven games with James already calling out his teammates for their mistakes, but that’s exactly what’s happening.
“We talk about patience but you can’t have reoccurrence of the same thing,” James said following a Monday night loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “If you are doing the same things over and over and over and expecting the same result then that’s insanity. So we have to get better. We can’t keep having the same mistakes over and over.”
James is doing his part, leading the team in scoring (27.6), rebounds (9.1), and steals (2.0). He’s just behind Rajon Rondo in assists with 8.1 and is playing 36.0 minutes per night. The 33-year-old is carrying his load on the floor, but how about in the locker room? We know he’s a competitor, but after seven games is it really time to express discontent to the press?
What makes this Lakers team different from his previous teams is that he’s the solitary leader. There’s no Dwyane Wade or Kevin Love to share responsibility for keeping the team focused. They’re also very young. Throughout his career, James has been surrounded by veterans who’ve been there, done that. He’s always been able to show up, be amazing, and have a reasonable expectation his teammates would help him get to another NBA finals.
This Lakers team isn’t going to the finals. It’s hard to imagine them making the playoffs. But it’s not all doom and gloom. They’re a team that has the building blocks to be a contender very soon, albeit not this year. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma all have potential to be the supporting cast he needs. They just have to figure out how to be better at team defense (ranked 29th currently) and hit the boards much, much better.
That will take time.
Even if they don’t do it on the court, James is set in Los Angeles. It’s his kind of town, one that’s big enough for his ego and fast enough for his pleasures. He will be growing his media empire from the heart of Hollywood and may end up being a bigger off-court star than predecessors like Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan.
It’s early. The team has room to grow. They just may not have enough time to keep James interested. He turns 34 in December and he’s not accustomed to losing most of his games as he’s bound to do this season.
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JD Rucker – EIC