In his last couple stops, new Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James put pressure on the organizations he played for (the Miami Heat and especially the Cleveland Cavaliers) by taking short-term contracts with the obvious implication that if things weren’t going as he liked, he’d leave.
Thanks to a contract that could last as long as four years with the Los Angeles, the Lakers don’t have to worry about that, and the message seemed to be clear: James is committed and believes in this organization.
But Brian Windhorst of ESPN, it’s not just that James believes in the Lakers, it’s that he wanted to show that commitment and “set the tone” for both himself and the team that he’s in this for the long haul of a rebuild he knows won’t happen overnight:
According to sources close to James, one of the reasons he decided to commit long-term was to set the tone -- for himself as much as the organization -- that he was going to embrace a process he knew the Lakers were going to have to undergo. Even at age 33, James also believed he had multiple years left in his prime and believed it was a calculated risk that the Lakers could construct a contending team. Whether or not he’ll be able to stick to that plan is to be seen. But he went into it with eyes wide open.
That crashing noise you’re hearing is Dan Gilbert absolutely wrecking his office.
There’s quite a bit to unpack here, but I find it especially noteworthy that James is sending this message to himself, as well as the team. It’s no coincidence, one would believe, that he’s preached patience basically since arriving in Los Angeles all the while understanding his own past shortcomings in this department that Windhorst referenced in his piece.
When James’ decision is framed like this, it highlights the responsibility that Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers front office and organization has in regards to LeBron. Yes, it’s fair to expect James to maintain the level of play that gave him the ability to hold his leverage over teams, but when an all-time great player commits to a team like he has here, it’s with the understanding that franchise will do whatever it can to put him in the best situation possible to succeed.
With games finally right around the corner, we can watch this mutually-beneficial relationship come to fruition. But given the foundation of trust upon which that partnership was built, great things could very well be on the way.