A year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers offense sputtered to a halt all too often in clutch situations. LeBron James tends to fix that kind of thing, but Luke Walton doesn’t want to use him as a safety net all the time this year.
Walton addressed reporters after the Lakers’ final practice before they hopped on a plane for Portland for their season opener against the Blazers, and addressed how clutch situations might go. (via the Lakers’ official Twitter account)
“It’s easiest to just give (LeBron) the ball, somebody as talented as he is, and we will. He’ll have the ball plenty of time, but it’s also important that our guys continue to develop. What we’re talking about is where we’re going to be at the end of the year, so if we have guys out there or lineups that are struggling, let’s kind of let them figure it out a little bit, knowing that we have all the belief in the world in them.
“Those guys have done a really nice job here, and so it’s finding the balance of him doing what he does so well and continuing to let some of the other guys make plays and grow so that we can be at our best at the end of the season.”
The balance between winning games and developing the team’s young core is going to be the most consistently pervasive theme this year and moving forward until the core develops to a place where the organization feels comfortable trusting them to produce consistently.
James also reportedly preferred playmakers around him rather than once again being the lone driving force for the team he played for — hence the Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson (ugh) and Michael Beasley signings in favor of the typical shooters that he’s played with in years past.
How the Lakers handle this dynamic (both in clutch situations and in general) is going to be fascinating to watch, and also go a long way in deciding what not only this team specifically, but the organization as a whole is capable of during James’ time as a Laker. Here’s hoping the kids are ready.