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LeBron James says he will ‘be as patient as he can be’ with young Lakers

LeBron James and his new Lakers teammates will need each other if this team is to really become a title contender.

NBA: Preseason-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s go back to an exchange that occurred during media a couple weeks ago. LeBron James sits down at the stage Spectrum Sportsnet erected for the occasion. He’s interviewing with James Worthy, Chris McGee and Allie Clifton. He starts talking about the patience he’ll need to show this year.

Clifton laughed, and James knew this jig was up. Here’s the exchange, as it aired on Spectrum Sportsnet.

After James’ Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, James was asked about about the process of growing with such a young team by Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports and gave what was, quite frankly, an incredible quote.

“I would never get into [an East-West] conversation like that,” James told Yahoo Sports. “‘Oh, he’s competitive in the East, but [the West is different].’ I’m well respected by my peers and that’s all that matters. I’m going to be as patient as I can be. I know I got a young squad, but these guys are willing to learn and I’m willing to learn with them.”

“I’m going to be as patient as I can be” is James’ way of recognizing that he hasn’t always been patient with younger players surrounding him, no matter how talented they might be.

When he arrived in Cleveland for the second time, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett were promptly shipped out for Kevin Love, while a slew of other veterans from around the league were acquired to better fit James’ skill set and personality. Kyrie Irving was frustrated enough with the dynamic between him and James to demand a trade. There’s a history here.

The thing is: Because of the way that the Cavaliers’ roster was put together, there was an inherent ceiling on how much talent they could assemble. Building through outside acquisitions is a great quick fix, but if you really want to piece together a juggernaut that could compete sustainably moving forward within the rules of the CBA, you need draft picks to pan out and outperform their first couple contracts. This helps provide enough flexibility to also add to the roster and then eventually keep the team together (though that comes with hefty luxury tax payments).

If James is willing to accept some bumps along the way as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the rest of the young core endure their growing pains, that gives the Lakers the flexibility to add max-level free agent talent and surround it with players who could one day reach that level, themselves.

Over the course of those young guys growing into the roles that have been laid out in front of them, James will also learn how best to achieve the success he was hoping for by coming to L.A. It’s a fascinating give-and-take relationship.

As James implies, though, his patience has limits. Ball, Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart have all shown some impressive promise, but if they plateau or don’t grow at the pace the Lakers and James need them to, they’ll be moved. It’s really that simple in what is now win-now situation.

James and the young Lakers are in the extremely early stages of a process that will take a while and immense patience. At the very least thus far, we’ve seen progress and patience, from all involved.