The Los Angeles Lakers signing LeBron James in free agency essentially made the team instant title contenders in the public consciousness, even if it didn’t necessarily raise them to the level of the Golden State Warriors.
However, James himself has previously demurred on those expectations. In his first comments since joining the team back in July, he had told reporters that he didn’t have “any” expectations for the team just yet, but that they “definitely want to be better than we were after the previous year, and we want to have championship (habits).”
On some level that makes sense. With the Warriors looking as stacked as ever and James’ supporting cast still having a lot to prove in terms of how well they complement him — even if some are justifiably optimistic — the Lakers shouldn’t necessarily be expected to win a championship right away. These things take time.
Still, James went a little stronger in recent comments during an interview with beIN Sports (as transcribed by ibtimes.com) during his recent trip overseas, as he said that while he ultimately just wants the Lakers to be making progress, he’s still hoping to add to his ring count this season:
“The goal is to always win a championship. That is the goal,” James recently told beIN Sports. “But that is up there, but us as a young team and only recently coming together, we have to continue to get better every day. We have to work championship habits every day.”
”If we can do that and progress each and every day, each and every week, then we’ll give ourselves the best chance to be successful. How successful? That is the unknown but what can be known for sure is if we work our tails off and we sacrifice for one another, we play the right way then we can be a good team,” he said.
These seem like the right notes for James to hit here. Of course he wants to win a championship. Every player who plays in the NBA wants that, all things being equal. However, it doesn’t mean every player has a chance to, and the Lakers have to show a lot of strides forward from last season — even upon adding LeBron — to get to that level.
But the championship habits James wants to build can’t be constructed without championship expectations, and while most of the media doesn’t have those for the Lakers, the team has to have them internally in order to push themselves to perform at that level.
Even if their title-winning goals don’t get met this season, they could help the Lakers get to the right level of performance for the following year as their young core continues to grow and they look to add another star in free agency. For now, progress might have to be enough, no matter what the Lakers’ internal expectations are.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.