What LeBron James says, the Lakers' problems are not just about comfort


LeBron James wanted to talk about culture. After a loss of 128 to 115 Saturday night against the pelicans, a tumultuous team during the second consecutive night, and did not play Anthony Davis – James, Clerk of Hollywood took his time to find out how he would have answered questions about a dark performance that dropped his Lakers below .500. That's what he chose: culture.

Just days after publicly announcing that he would "activate" his playoff-level intensity, James met with the media to talk about another blow to LA's hope of coming back into action. playoffs for the first time since 2013.

"How can you know what's at stake if you've never been there?" Asked James, "acting as the devil's advocate" about the Lakers playoff push. "[…] It's a bit tricky to talk about that, because when you've never been there or you do not know what it takes to shoot, you're afraid of feeling uncomfortable. So, you must be comfortable to be uncomfortable. "

What LeBron can not The defeat that has tainted Lakers basketball over the last five years has persisted throughout the 29-30 year old campaign. L.A. is three games on the no. 8 seeds with 23 games to play. When asked if Saturday 's loss was different from the 29 defeats that preceded it this season – perhaps more disappointing, as it spoiled the positive vibes of Thursday' s big victory over the Rockets – James' s. is ridiculed of this idea and pointed out the past.

"For me, no," he says, "you see, that's what I'm talking about … the last few years, everyone is so used to losses, I'm just not used to that, I'm not used to it. I will never feel comfortable losing, so losing game 1 to [Portland] is still the same as losing the 59 game in New Orleans for me. That's how I am built. Who am I? "

No one doubts who James is or how he was built. But after 59 games in his first season in LA, there are still many questions to ask about who are the Lakers, how they were built and the fundamental strangeness of this company.

Since he decided to sign with Los Angeles in unrestricted free agency in July, James has made it clear repeatedly that he knew he had committed to a new kind of challenge: building a competitor allegedly to from nothing, rather than joining as a winner alongside All-Stars, as in Miami and on his return to Cleveland. He said that in the first season of his four-year contract, he would not use the proximity of the championship with the Lakers to measure success or failure. When the team stumbled early, he was calm, reminding everyone who listened to him that the NBA regular season is a marathon rather than a sprint, especially when you lead a team with so many young people. and new pieces.

The race was not as smooth as possible, largely because of injuries – mainly a sprained groin that put James away from Christmas until the end of January. , and a sprained left ankle that has kept the Lonzo Ball leader on the shelf since. January 19 (and could keep it a little longer). Ultimately, however, marathon runners must start their closing kick. And James' comments this weekend suggest some uncertainty as to whether he believes his teammates are ready to run at his favorite pace.

"It's like that we're getting into the match every day," James told reporters Saturday. "That's what you think of playing every day. That's how you play. That's how you prepare for the game. And it's not even like when you get to the arena. It's like before. It's like: Is basketball the most important thing while we do this? Is this the most important thing in your life at this time? If you have the impression of giving everything to the game, you can do something else. But if you feel that you are not giving as much as you can, you can not focus on anything else. It's just … my personal grip.

You can imagine that some find a certain irony in LeBron's insistence on the importance of putting basketball in the foreground while promoting his sport. TV show, his movieJames is entitled to his "personal hold". It just seems a strange note, but what hurts the Lakers seems to have less to do with a losing culture and more with a post -TheBron-signature been spent adding players who do not fit well with him and who n & # 39; Did not play well:

It is not surprising that a team intentionally charged with foul play, dominant ball, ranks 20th in 3 marks per game, 19th in long balls attempted per game, 28th in percentage by team of 3 points and 21st in offensive efficiency overall. It is not surprising that a team relying on Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson has been fighting for defense lately. Those were the problems that virtually everyone predicted the Lakers would face as the season approached.

The fact that these problems are springing up now does not seem to be the product of a previously established losing culture: Brandon Ingram is averaging 21.4 points per game on a 54.8 percent shot at his Last 10 outings, and scored 56 points in his past two games. Kyle Kuzma has collected seven assists against New Orleans, his highest level in career, and often looks like the only offensive source of L.A. non-LeBron offense. The Lakers were seventh in points allocated per possession when Ball dropped; they rank 27th since. (And for the sake of it, if James laments the discomfort of his younger teammates, it might be interesting to look at what has made them so uncomfortable in recent weeks.)

No, it's much more like the natural progression of poorly designed alignment. That's why so many observers wondered what exactly Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka were thinking about when they put James in the driver's seat of what looked like a LeBron James team. There might be something that looks like a team like that in the locker room now; My colleague Jonathan Tjarks has hailed the acquisitions of Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala on time as the kind of spy shooter that could unlock the L.A. attack, but it is increasingly likely that these additions will not be enough: fivethirtyeightThe projection model sets the Lakers chances of making the playoffs at only 20%.

All that speaks of long journeys, everyone understands that it will take time to get on track, and multi-year contracts announcing long-distance commitments face a very hard wall at very high speed if the Lakers can not understand it. This is a difficult thing to tackle after you have been trained by pelicans without AD. Instead, you talk about culture.

"LeBron is one of the few guys to have lived everything," Lakers goaltender Josh Hart told reporters last week. "So, obviously, he's going to put a lot on his shoulders. But it's time for us to grow up. "

May be. But maybe the time has come for LeBron and the other cult veterans Magic has imported this summer, you know, define the culture or take responsibility for the mess they created. The Lakers' latest attempt to turn a new page comes Monday against the lame Grizzlies. I wonder what LeBron will want to talk about after that.

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