The Los Angeles Lakers have obviously already started to feel LeBron James’ presence on the court. He can do special things out there most other players simply don’t really consider doing because they lack the skill, basketball IQ and imagination.
James’ impact extends well beyond those abilities on the court, though, so long his new Lakers teammates don’t let themselves becomes fans just like everyone else watching.
Lonzo Ball touched on the discipline required to avoid that, via Spectrum Sportsnet.
“When you play with LeBron you have to make sure to keep playing because he’s easy to watch with some of the stuff he does. He had a monster first half and he’s the best player in the world, that’s what he does, but we have to keep focusing and keep doing our job.
And if you find yourself becoming a spectator? Lonzo says it’s not complicated.
“He just brings everybody’s energy levels up. If you don’t bring it, you’re going to be watching from the bench.”
It’s impossible to define, but the thing about greatness is it demands, at the very least, the effort to try to match that level. You just don’t want to let down someone as great at what they do as James is at basketball. And this phenomenon isn’t even unique to James. That’s just kind of how it works.
Lonzo’s second point is an important one to notice. The Lakers are deep enough (everywhere except at center, basically) to replace just about everyone who doesn’t meet the intensity level required to succeed on a playoff contender. And over the course of the season, on certain nights, guys just won’t have it. So Luke Walton will go with the next guy.
For right now, though, it’s at least a start that Ball (and the rest of the Lakers, hopefully) recognize what it’s going to take if they’re going to succeed next to LeBron. Yes, he’ll have those moments because of who he is and what he’s capable of. But if the Lakers really want to live up to expectations this season, they can’t become spectators — or else they risk being given that role on a consistent basis.