LeBron James and Stephen Curry are going to be inextricably linked in NBA history for their years of competition at the sport’s absolute peak. They’e impacted the way the game is played, both on and off the court, in ways that can’t ever be undone. They’ve also done more for their current teams than they’re getting in return.
In Golden State, their ownership has convinced themselves they can compete for a championship now with an eye towards the future. They watched championship-caliber role players walk last summer and are hoping unproven prospects can fill their spots with little data to back up that hope. The Warriors are off to a slow start, those prospects aren’t working out and it’s taking insane Curry performances to win the few games they’ve managed to thus far.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers have a near-40-year-old James, Anthony Davis while he actually appears healthy and zero incentive whatsoever to tank this season but still find themselves near the bottom of the standings with all indications pointing to them riding this out and potentially sending a top-five pick to New Orleans. The good news is there’s no generational superstar in this draft so at least there’s that.
Both Curry and LeBron have lifted these previously rudderless organizations to unbelievable heights compared to where they were at the time of their arrivals.
Golden State had been a laughingstock for much of its existence. The four championships Curry is responsible for should be enough to get them to commit to whatever it takes to maximize his chances at winning more of them, but no. They’re still waiting for James Wiseman to consistently prove he belongs on an NBA court.
James signed with the Lakers on the heels of the lowest point in franchise history. He chose the L.A. and has since taken them from that level of ineptitude to their 17th championship, finally tying the Boston Celtics. You’d think they’d jump at the chance at passing Boston, especially given how close the Celtics came to winning last year, but nope. All signs still somehow point to them not committing more resources to avoiding two straight lost seasons.
Another thing James and Curry have in common: They aren’t really ownership’s “guys.” Curry predates Joe Lacob and there are few things fake geniuses hate more than the people actually responsible for their success. James, unlike, say, Kobe Bryant, who L.A. did risk their future to help compete for a championship before his career altering achilles injury, is not a lifelong Laker.
Would Lacob be more committed to Curry had he drafted and developed him? Would the Lakers be more willing to compete if James wasn’t in only his fourth season in their organization? None of that should matter even a little, but based on their actions, it clearly seems to.
Rob Pelinka has spoken in the past about being a caretaker to James’ final chapters of his historic career. This is how any executive tasked with leading organizations lucky enough to have a player of James or Curry’s stature should look at things, so it’s good to hear him recognize that responsibility. But these last two seasons would indicate he’s a little too okay with losing for him to actually claim to be committed to the task at hand.
Lastly, the Warriors and Lakers owe it not only to their fans to maximize their windows with James and Curry, but also to the sport, itself. Their rivalry is responsible for some of the most dramatic moments in league history but outside of that play-in game, we haven’t had any matchups with real stakes attached since James arrived in L.A.
No active players move the needle the way they do. When James got to L.A., I’m sure the league office was aglow at the possibilities of James and Curry facing off at least four times per year, but nope. Given Pelinka’s approach to this season, the Lakers’ chances at a title might’ve already disappeared by the time they played opening night.
Now, there is still time for both organizations to come to their senses and actually commit to competing to their fullest extent now while Curry and James are playing at such high levels. At literally any point, Pelinka can be done with this ridiculous and arbitrary 20-game test run. Golden State can finally admit what we all see and replace the productive veterans they lost with guys old enough to legally rent a car. Until they do, those claims of commitment to their stars are just empty words.
This week on “The Anthony Irwin Show,” I welcomed Brady Klopfer of Golden State of Mind to discuss these two situations, the chances either franchise wakes up, and other commonalities between the Lakers and Warriors, who have quite a bit in common.
You can listen to all that and more on our latest episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.