LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are now on a three-game winning streak. The team hasn’t exactly looked unbeatable during that stretch, but given that they literally have been undefeated by the results, optimism abounds about what the team can do from here.
But when things were rougher — like during the team’s 2-5 start, for example — it sounds like James wasn’t so happy. In fact, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he “almost cracked” when the Lakers were doing worse:
“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”
James has previously said that “you probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out,” and it seems the Lakers almost got a glimpse of what that looked like. At least until, as James told Haynes, he took a look at the bigger picture and remembered that it was always going to take time for the Lakers’ young core and crew of motley veterans to come together:
“I had to regroup and remember this is a young team,” James told Yahoo Sports. “We’re playing some good ball right now and we’re starting to build some good habits. That’s all that matters right now.”
James is right about the team making progress. The Lakers are 5-1 in their last six games, and have ranked fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency over that stretch, holding teams to 102.5 points per 100 possessions.
Some of their defensive success is due to the addition of Tyson Chandler, and some of it is attributable to four of those six contests coming against likely lottery teams, but it’s still indicative of the Lakers being a better defensive roster than the bottom-five-in-the-league unit they were to start the season.
It’s good that James is recognizing the progress the Lakers are making, but the real test of whether he learned from it will be when the team hits their next rough patch. Will James hold steady and remember the long-term goal, or demand short-term help? How about the next time the Lakers struggle after that? The answers to those questions will go a long way in determining the fate of this franchise for years to come.
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.