The prevailing narrative about LeBron James for most of the NBA season was that he would only consider the Los Angeles Lakers if another star like Paul George agreed to come with him, but unless he considers Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or, like, Kentavious Caldwell Pope a star, that didn’t happen.
Instead, James is left with a roster he isn’t setting expectations for beyond building “championship habits,” and he told Rachel Nichols of ESPN that such a theoretical team up with George — who quickly re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder — was never really on the table:
“I didn’t have many conversations with Paul, and I think Paul did what was best for him. And I think that’s what everybody should do as players, they should do what’s best for them and their family. You shouldn’t get too pressured by anybody. If there’s somebody they want to play with, and they have the opportunity to do it, then go for it. I think we all see that he made the best decision for himself and his family.
George clearly felt that he had unfinished business with the Thunder, which was why he spurned a home town team he still says he has a lot of “love” for, and may have felt staying in Oklahoma City was “the best decision” for his family as well.
And as was proven out by the rest of free agency, that was just fine with James, who committed to the Lakers on a four-year deal despite them not having any other clear superstars on the roster. He is willing to give this franchise time, because he understands there is no quick bandage that can cover up the wounds playing against the Golden State Warriors can inflict.
The only way to beat the Warriors may be to get stronger as they start to decline, something the Lakers’ young core that James is so fond of gives him a chance to do as they continue to grow. It might not be enough to beat the Warriors, but if a team-up with George really wasn’t in the cards, it also may have been James’ best bet.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.