Before the season, one of the most oft-voiced concerns about the LeBron James era for the Los Angeles Lakers was how he the 33-year-old would relate to teammates like Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, who are all in their early 20s.
This concern usually came from detractors of James’ move, and it was often a form of concern trolling that essentially came across as “oh, that’s cute, you think LeBron is going to want to play with those kids?”
We still have a long way to go before it’s time to judge whether or not James and his teammates fully bridge the generational gap during his time during Los Angeles, but Ingram told Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times that things are going pretty well with James so far:
“I mean, he acts like a kid. He acts like one of us,” Ingram said. “Of course he keeps it professional all the time. [But he also] acts like one of us on a daily basis.”
Ingram laughed in acknowledging that James’ sons help their dad stay abreast of things his young teammates might like — “Me and his son listen to the same music,” Ingram said, referring to Bronny — but he also said James doesn’t treat his teammates like his children.
Hart agreed with Ingram’s description.
“He’s one of us,” Hart said. “But he’s the best player to put on an NBA jersey. When you have someone like that he’s obviously the vocal leader and talks to you. But it’s not like he’s spazzing on us. He can relate on a different level but he can joke around so it makes it just regular.”
This type of bonding will be key to how James’ tenure in Los Angeles goes. If he can relate to his young teammates and they produce on the court, then things are going to go swimmingly for the next three or four years. If either of those things don’t happen, though, it will be interesting to see how James’ interactions with his teammates change.
James reportedly signed a four-year deal as a sign of his commitment to the Lakers and to force himself to be patient as the team rebuilds, but that’s easier to agree to in the summer than it is to live through it the first time the team goes on a four-game losing streak.
James has been known to take hard lines with teammates over professionalism or commitment to the team in the past — especially with the Cavaliers — whether it was his infamous subtweet of Kevin Love or multiple occasions where he had to take his teammates to task for not picking up their laundry.
If the Lakers struggle early and their young core doesn’t show the type of dedication James is looking for, it will be interesting to see if he’s still “one of the guys,” or the guy who starts looking for new guys the Lakers can bring in.
But that potential doom-and-gloom scenario is something the Lakers can deal with if and when they get there. For now, it’s just a good sign that James and his teammates are finding common ground and building bonds, something that could go a long way towards helping those same teammates improve and reach that standard that James, the front office and coaching staff are going to hold them to now that the team is in win-now mode
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.