When the Los Angeles Lakers added Lebron James to the team this summer, the expectation may have not been winning a championship but at the very least ensure a deep playoff run to steer them in the right direction. Last year the Lakers finished 35-47 missing the playoffs. This season the Lakers are currently 31-39 and on track to miss the playoffs yet again.
Are the Lakers Better Without Lebron?
Sending Shockwaves Throughout The League
July 1st the first day of free agency the Lakers were making headlines. Lebron James signed a four year $154 million dollar deal, one of the biggest names in sports and in basketball and agreed to join one of the most historic franchises in NBA history.
With a signing like that, it meant putting the Lakers back on the map. Ensuring the Lakers would be a powerhouse and a force going forward. Wherever LeBron James goes the expectation is always championship or bust. With the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat, and now Lakers having a high caliber player like James on your roster, failure is not an option.
Magic Johnson and his partner Rob Pelinka seemed to have struck gold with bringing in Lebron James. Which many thought was a tall task especially for the rookie duo. Magic and Rob had a plan in mind, and that meant bringing in the biggest name out there in free agency.
The Good The Bad The Ugly
Lebron James is a walking triple-double. Lebron could have 27 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists just like that. In other words, Lebron James is known to fill up the stat sheet easily he’s that good.
That being said, we know in this league stats aren’t everything. Lebron James is also going into his 16th season at age 34 and is considered an aging superstar. Trying to build around an aging Lebron James could potentially scream trouble for the Lakers. At age 34 Lebron has displayed a lack of defensive intensity. Often missing defensive assignments. Against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kyle Kuzma literally had to push James in order for him to close out on a three-point shooter. That can’t happen if you are Lebron James, you are supposed to set an example and mentor the young guys.
In addition to bad defense, Lebron has also displayed bad leadership qualities at times this season. During losses, he’s been seen sitting at the very end of the bench, instead of being with the team. Bad body language on the court whenever a teammate makes a mistake or bad play, James can be seen slumping over in a passive-aggressive manner or looking disgusted. Things like that can take the confidence away from young players trying to grow and develop. Above all else, he gives off the vibe he is distancing and separating himself from the team.
First off, Lebron brings immediate media attention. Every little thing Lebron does the media is all over it, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has been quoted saying the environment Lebron can bring to a franchise can be “toxic”. Durant is not wrong with his comments, having Lebron around can make it hard on the younger players to truly grow and develop into their own.
Lebron is a businessman and that is well documented, he doesn’t just want to be known as a basketball player when everything is said and done. That being said when you play for an organization like the Lakers who are all about championships, outside distractions can’t exist.
Announcing the production of Space Jam 2, as well as producing an album with famous rapper 2 Chainz all within the season are distractions the Lakers don’t need. Especially, when they are trying to develop a young growing group of players and gear them for the playoffs. It could send the wrong message that Lebron simply just doesn’t care about this season.
Commit and Strive For Greatness/Last Word
Lebron James is a champion, an all-star, a future Hall of Famer but that does not mean he is without fault. The Lakers will ultimately miss the playoffs again, making their last playoff appearance dating back to 2013. However, this offseason can be used as a learning period for James.
Lebron James not playing in June may seem like foreign territory. But he can take this opportunity to take a page out of the book of Kobe Bryant. Kobe had a championship or bust mentality. When he wasn’t competing for championships he was learning, evolving and honing his skills as a player. You never heard Kobe associated with anything else but the game of basketball because he knew what the Lakers organization was all about.
Lebron has a chance to do just that. James will be 35 entering his 17th season in the league. This is a great chance for Lebron to prove to people and even Laker fans that he is committed to the Lakers organization. He may even have to adjust his game and take a back seat to the young guys.
Regardless of what James decides to do, one thing is for sure. The Lakers can’t afford to miss the playoffs yet again. The fans are getting restless and impatient. And Lebron James isn’t getting any younger. Father time is undefeated for a reason.
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