A sprawling feature from Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report dropped on Wednesday morning, a story in which Bucher spoke with multiple players — including a very honest appearance from Kevin Durant — about why they or other players might find it hard to join LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers.
The whole thing is worth your time, as it features shockingly candid, on-the-record comments from NBA players about the nuances that come with a team-up with James. Once you read it, come right back here for Lakers head coach Luke Walton’s response.
Are you done? Okay, cool. Well, Walton was asked about that story at the Lakers’ shootaround on Wednesday morning, and he said he didn’t get why players wouldn’t want to team up with James.
Paraphrasing Luke Walton In response to @RicBucher’s story today, says he doesn’t know why guys wouldn’t want to play with LeBron. Also says he believes this Lakers team, young core with LeBron, can “absolutely” win a championship eventually.— Bill Oram (@billoram) December 5, 2018
Walton’s response is fair, and not unexpected. There are difficulties to playing with — or coaching, for that matter — James, but they aren’t unique to him. There is an adjustment to playing with basically any superstar. Getting less shots, having the ball in one’s hands less, a shifting of blame to supplementary players in losses while the star gets all the credit if they win.
Again, James is not unique in this respect. The Warriors have spoiled our analysis in terms of how seamlessly superstars can fit together, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. Durant and Russell Westbrook were constantly trying to figure each other out, and arguably never really did. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have struggled to find a balance. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash never found an equilibrium — sorry from bringing that one up, Lakers fans. And those are only a few examples.
All this is to say that Walton makes a good point. Maybe some players wouldn’t want to play with James, but it’s likely that these players have either an outsized view of their own talents or are primarily concerned with winning beyond the court. Or maybe both.
This doesn’t make them wrong, it’s just something worth acknowledging. For players that are looking to play alongside the greatest player of this generation, or maybe ever, that opportunity awaits in Los Angeles. Walton was always a role player, so of course he can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want that chance.
It’s still understandable why some stars may not want to, but if any of them decide they desire to win at the highest level or take a run at Golden State Warriors, then they have a chance to in Los Angeles starting this summer. Or maybe at the trade deadline. If not, the Lakers will have to re-evaluate from there.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.