LeBron James may have only made his return to the lineup for the Lakers on Friday night in their 130-108 loss to the Boston Celtics, but between that game and his front-row seats on the sidelines for their previous several defeats, he knows this team has a lot left to figure out.
James said he felt “OK” physically after the game following his eight-game absence with a persistent abdominal strain, but it was clear that he’s far less satisfied with where his team is at.
“We damn sure need to play better, no matter who is in the lineup,” James said. “It’s never that ‘we’ve got 65 games and we’ll figure it out then.’ ... There’s no level of panic, but there should be some sense of urgency any time we hit the floor.
“I feel like we had that for moments throughout this game tonight, and then at some point throughout the game we didn’t,” James continued. “We’ve got to figure out how we can keep that sense of urgency for as close to 48 minutes as possible.”
It was a bit of a divergence from James’ co-star Russell Westbrook’s own frustration with getting similar questions about the Lakers losing in the same ways they always do, an answer during which the team’s starting point guard preached patience and said the team didn’t know when they would figure things out.
James agreed that it will be “a process” for the Lakers to figure things out, saying that he’s trying to “stay even-keeled” as they solve their issues, but he added that the team should absolutely not be sitting comfortably in the assumption that things will just automatically fix themselves.
“I’ve always felt comfortable when things are uncomfortable, so I look forward to the process of us trying to get better,” James said, before quickly correcting himself, “Us getting better. Not trying. We will get better. We will improve. But that’s just being uncomfortable. We should be uncomfortable every single day in our film sessions and our walkthroughs, and our practices, and even when we’re out on the floor until we right the ship.”
And while James didn’t directly reference this — and may not have even been alluding to it — one thing is for sure: With Frank Vogel only getting a one-year extension this summer, and players who were signed in the offseason eligible to be traded on Dec. 15, there are a list of Lakers who should be more uncomfortable than anyone with the team below .500 at 8-9 overall, sitting at just ninth place in the Western Conference. Because while James says they should all be uncomfortable, we know who the people first in line to find comfort or discomfort somewhere else will be if the Lakers don’t start to turn things around.
But even if the team gets better, James says his mindset isn’t going to change.
“We should be even more uncomfortable when things start to feel good, because, like I said, it’s never as good as it may feel, and it’s never as bad as it may seem,” James said.
That may be true, and is an admirably zen way to look at things, but things are still pretty bad right now, even if maybe it seems worse than it is after defeats like Friday night’s. And if they don’t get better soon, trust that a few people involved are going to be feeling a whole lot worse than “uncomfortable” as the Lakers try to turn this thing around.