LeBron James has appeared in every NBA Finals for almost a decade, and he’ll be held to those same lofty expectations in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, who haven’t even seen the playoffs since the 2012-13 season. No pressure, right, LeBron?
James has already said that, like every season, his goal this year is to win a championship, but on Monday at Lakers media day, he clarified those comments, saying he won’t let a championship determine whether or not his first season in Los Angeles was a success.
“I don’t believe that,” James said “I don’t believe the only thing that’s success at the end of the season is winning a championship. There is only one championship. That doesn’t mean you’re not successful.
“Obviously we’ve got some returning guys, but as far as the ball club we’re all new to each other, so we have to take our bumps and bruises. There is going to be good times, there’s going to be bad times, and that’s what happens with a team that’s new. But if we continue to work the process and we continue to sacrifice for one another and put in the commitment and the time to being great, everything else will fall in to place.”
While that may sound like James is tempering his expectations for the upcoming season, it’s the reality James and the Lakers face this year. The Lakers added seven players this summer in the NBA draft and in free agency. They also lost two of their regular season starters from last season in Julius Randle and Brook Lopez.
It’s for that reason James isn’t quite ready to declare the Lakers surefire contenders, especially in a Western Conference that features the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, who James said are in a different realm than the Lakers are currently.
”We got a long way to go to get to Golden State,” James said. “They can pick up right where they left off, starting with training camp, if they start today or whenever they start. We’re picking up from scratch, so we have a long way to go. We can’t worry about what Golden State is doing.
“They’re champions, and they’ve been together for a few years now. So we put that to the side. We can only focus on what we do to get better every day as a Lakers franchise, and hopefully someday we can put ourselves in a position where we can compete for a championship as Golden State has done for the last few years.”
So if James can’t guarantee a championship in his first season with the Lakers, what exactly is he hoping for over the next few months? Progress.
“My expectation is to try to get better every single day,” James said. “I don’t expect nothing. You work for what you want. You can’t expect anything. For me, it’s all part of the process.
“What I know I can bring to the table is being committed to having excellence every single day from a mindset standpoint, from how I prepare to go out and play. Everything else will take care of itself.”
In other words, James can only take the Lakers so far. In order for them to make serious noise in the wild, wild west, James’ supporting cast will have to make their time on the court count, and that starts with the young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
Going into the season with that much uncertainty can be a little concerning, but in this case, the unknown is what is so exciting.
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