LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers committed to a process over the next few years together. Typically speaking, teams that employ James tend to rely heavily on veteran role players who fit around him. Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office went in a different direction that — if it works out — gives them the chance at being special.
It has required patience to this point and will demand even more moving forward. But patience might be a luxury neither the Lakers nor James can afford.
James was asked about another disappointing loss Monday night and started by talking about on-court issues, but widened the scope to discussing less tangible aspects of the experiment he and the Lakers are in the early stages of (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“We gave up 20 offensive rebounds. We knew coming into the game they were a very good offensive rebounding team. We stressed that. We understood that, and we still allowed them to get second-chance points. You can’t do that on the road.
”We gotta get better. We know that. We talk about patience, but we can’t have recurrences of the same thing. Doing the same things over, and over, and over again and expecting a different result, that’s insanity. We have to get better. We can’t keep having the same mistakes over and over.”
He’s right, though I’d add that he isn’t blameless in making these recurring mistakes. If he’s taking that into account in his analysis of the situation, then cool. He and the Lakers can address that and move forward. But if he isn’t taking any accountability for late turnovers, missing free-throws or not really playing defense, then a lot of this rings kind of hollow.
The money quote that everyone freaked out about came a few minutes later, when he was asked the following question. The context here is important.
Q: You’ve mentioned patience this whole year. At what point does that patience run out, and what do you look like as a leader when your patience does run out?
LeBron: “You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out. I’m serious.”
James could be talking about any number of things. This could pertain to the kids and whether they’re capable of coming along quickly enough to help him win a title in Los Angeles. He could also be referring to Luke Walton’s coaching ability. There are any number of things that quote might have something to do with. It’s probably some combination of everything, or he was just responding to a question he was asked, and his answer wasn’t related to the Lakers at all.
That’s probably too naive a way to look at things, because LeBron is a smart dude who carefully considers everything he says. That noted, people wondering whether this might lead to sweeping changes either to the roster or the organization as a whole are probably getting ahead of themselves.
We should also probably take into account where this is coming from regarding LeBron specifically: He shouldn’t be patient. It’d be concerning if he was okay with a process that might take too long to produce any positive results while he focuses on projects away from the court. Basically, the alternative here is much less desirable than a single potentially inflammatory quote.
Look, as frustrating as the Lakers’ 2-5 start might be, context there is as important as the context under which LeBron gave the above quote. They’ve played playoff contenders in all but one of their games and have been close in each and every one of them. No, a team with James on the roster doesn’t have the ability to look at moral victories — those don’t count at the end of the year — but this early stretch of the season could have gone a lot worse.
Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Luke Walton or anyone else from a very young franchise (remember, Johnson and Pelinka are both only in year three of their gigs, and even Jeanie Buss is new to her current role) don’t want to see what happens when James runs out of patience. That much is objectively true, but he doesn’t seem to have lost patience yet. This was always going to take time, and the Lakers are by no means out of that.