When Magic Johnson took over as team president of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017, he made it clear that he wants the organization to start winning championships again and by signing LeBron James, he took a big step in that direction.
However, he has also stressed that he doesn’t want to make the same mistake the Cleveland Cavaliers did and run James into the ground. Apparently, he’s not the only person plugged into the organization that wants to avoid doing that.
During a Q&A at the Lakers’ annual “All-Access” event at Staples Center on Monday, Kobe Bryant said that the Lakers can’t solely rely on James to get them to the promised land (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
Bryant said James’ approach to his maiden voyage with the Lakers is not conducive to long-term success, but that it was needed at this stage in the team’s development.
”It’s a test of Bron’s patience and also doing what he needs to do to keep the team’s head above water,” Bryant told Lakers play-by-play announcer Bill MacDonald at the “All-Access” event. “So, it’s a balancing act. They were struggling, Bron got the ball, took control, decided to start playing point, doing everything, doing everything.
”That’s not the recipe for winning championships by no means, but it is a recipe to keep your head above water, to give yourself a little breathing room, and now it’s going back to teaching how to play the way that we want to play.”
These comments are a little ironic coming from Bryant, whose reputation among Lakers fans is built upon the fact that he supposedly won his titles doing all of the work, but he’s not wrong.
There have been games this season that the Lakers have walked away with close wins because James, for lack of a better phrase, flipped the switch. While he’s surely capable of doing that on any given night, it’s not a sustainable model for success, especially considering he is just weeks away from celebrating his 34th birthday.
Luckily, that hasn’t been a huge problem for the Lakers this season, and with each game they look more comfortable playing as a collective unit. As a result, James is playing the fewest minutes he’s averaged in his career (34.6) while averaging the most points per game (27.8) he’s averaged since before he made “The Decision.”
There will be nights James will have to step up and carry his team to a hard-fought victory because that’s what superstars do, but as long as he’s not constantly having to bail out the Lakers, this will continue to be a non-issue.
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