Dave McMenamin of ESPN dropped a long-form feature on what went wrong for LeBron James and the Lakers this season on Friday morning, and the whole thing is a must-read in its entirety.
Within it, the best anecdote is saved for last, when McMenamin describes a conversation he had with James at shootaround before the Lakers’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks a few weeks ago. He asked James about the Lakers’ decision to surround him with playmakers instead of shooters, and well, I won’t spoil James’ answer (via ESPN):
For the first time in years, James wasn’t surrounded by elite-level shooters. And for the first time in years, his team wasn’t going to be playing in the postseason.
What did James think of the Lakers’ grand experiment? How did he view the idea of prioritizing playmaking over shooting.
”That experiment?” James said of the roster construction for his first season in L.A.
James stared out onto the court for a moment, turned his attention back to the conversation, pursed his lips and stuck out his tongue as he trumpeted air out of his mouth, making a raspberry sound.
“THBPBPTHPT!” is now the story of the Lakers’ season. I have written thousands, and maybe upwards of one million words on this year, and there is literally nothing I can write that will ever sum up this year better than James making a fart sound with his mouth. This whole thing has been a fart sound.
James also isn’t wrong about the specific issue he made the fart sound to describe. As McMenamin noted in his post, the Lakers were the worst-shooting team in the league on wide-open threes, making just 34.3 percent of such attempts, per NBA.com. The Lakers also ranked 29th out of 30 teams in 3-point percentage overall, canning only 33 percent of their triples. Such a lack of shooting didn’t leave much space for the Lakers’ playmakers to make plays, a problem exacerbated by their lack of movement away from the ball and poor spacing principles.
So yeah, Coach Pete could have made a fart noise for that entire four-plus minute video above, but while that would have been hilarious, no one would have learned anything from it. The Lakers have to learn from this, and James wouldn’t have made a fart noise on the record to a reporter he clearly trusts as much as McMenamin if he didn’t want them to.
Make no mistake: None of this stuff gets out if someone doesn’t feel that it benefits them for such information to be in the public sphere, something worth remembering with leaks only set to increase over the next few weeks and months.
The reasoning the front office used for adding playmakers instead of shooters — easing James’ burden, trying something new — all made a bit of sense in a vacuum, but it didn’t work, and showed clearly that their roster-building pendulum will need to swing back the other way a bit this offseason. They can’t only justify all this with injuries, even if they made things a lot worse.
For James, this fart noise puts the pressure squarely on the front office. It’s a spittle-soaked throwing up of his hands to proverbially say “I didn’t build this team” and point the finger at those who did. And if James feels that way, it seems safe to guess the Lakers won’t be trying so hard to zig where others have zagged next season, and just try surrounding James with the type of shooters he’s been able to run elite offense with. Instead of trying to outsmart everyone all the time, it’s time to just do something smart.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.