“Lakers Get their Star–Get Problems Too?”
King James has landed with the Lakers, and the return to glory is just around the corner.
He wanted to come to LA, they wanted him, and a 4-year 154M-deal cemented the arrival of LeBron James.
But it came at a price, and probably questions worth asking, ones now tied to team chemistry.
LeBron gives the Lakers what they have solely lacked thru the five non-playoff seasons they have endured. Leadership, fire, passion, physicality, durability.
Not since the Kobe Bryant heyday has there been this buzz about this franchise. Not Phil Jackson, not Lonzo Ball, not anyone, can take over the team, the market and games, like LeBron will.
But it comes with a price.
In a stunning move, the Lakers backed off a trade for Kawhi Leonard for now. Either the asking price from San Antonio was too steep, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a number one?
Or maybe it was the uncertainty about the longterm health of Leonard after his missing of one full year with a quad injury that did not heal.
The Lakers said goodbye for quality forward-center Julius Randle, coming off a workman like 16-point a game season. He may not have been flashy. He was consistent. He was rugged. He was a good solid soldier.
Letting him go may have subtracted something strong at the talent level, though Kyle Kouzma, Hart and Ingram are back as cornerstones.
The Lakers wanted to change the personna of the team. They did that, and may have tampered with some team chemistry too.
You add the feistiness of Lance Stephenson on defense, but you also add a sometime headache type player, who scrapped with opponents officials, and his own teammates at various NBA spots.
Javale McGee, the jumping jack center, comes from Golden State, with defensive abilities, but a reputation for erratic performances on the floor and foolish things off the floor.
And then there’s Lonzo Ball, coming off 3-injuries, the most serious being meniscus surgery. Of course there still is lots of upside to him.
But you still have all the noise off the court, and outside the arena, from father LaVar, whom no-one wants to hear from. How does the on-court chemistry of Lonzo fit with LeBron? Will James make Ball an even better player going forward?
What is to the rumor that LaVar Ball leaked the Lonzo Ball knee surgery issue, to deter LA from including his son in any possible Kawhi Leonard trade?
And how will Luke Walton do as head coach staring, glaring, preaching into the eyes of LeBron James? You know there was a lot of coaching turmoil and turnover during the King James-Cleveland days.
The Lakers have yet to move on retaining free agent center Brooke Lopez, who had a strong statistical season on a bad young Lakers club. Cap space now becomes part of the argument going forward with any acquisition. They did keep shooting guard Kantavious Pope, last year’s pleasant surprise player.
So as Lakers fans celebrate, some should think about, do they have enough outside shooting aside from the starting five? Do they have trustworthy off the bench players? Will guys who acted like knuckleheads other places, be quality teammates in LA? Will the Ball family become a distraction again?
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka got one star signing done. Maybe they wait till next off season to see if Kawhi gets healthy, who else opts out, and how year one one of this chemistry experiment in LA does.
But the burning question going forward, they go the star they wanted, but they give up talent and team chemistry with some of the other questionable acquisitions? Only a full season will tell us that.