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Many have questioned LeBron James’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers after the superstar signed a four-year free agent deal with them.
The roster is nowhere near ready to compete for a championship in the rugged Western Conference and the Lakers might even struggle to make the playoffs, considering James is surrounded by a lot of young players and guys who don’t really fit well next to him.
In a story published on ESPN, writers Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk contacted more than two dozen players, coaches, executives and agents to get their reaction on James taking his talents to the Lakers.
“He wanted to come to LA,” one Western Conference player told ESPN. “They just had to not f— it up. Jerry West just said it, and I was like, ‘Finally.’ He’s not coming to the Lakers. He came to LA.”
After James signed with the Lakers, LA added Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley. Rondo and Stephenson aren’t good jump shooters, a trait players should have when playing next to James because he’s a great passer and collapses the paint on his drives to the basket. It’s fair to say there won’t be much floor spacing for the Lakers when Rondo, Stephenson and James are playing together.
Lonzo Ball shot just 36.0 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from three during his rookie season. He’s currently recovering from a torn meniscus, but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart all have bright futures in the NBA, but how long will it take them to be ready for a playoff battle mentally and physically? If the Lakers make the playoffs this season, it’s doubtful all three will play well.
“My thought was, ‘Good luck. You must really want to live in LA,’ ” one prominent agent told ESPN. “Playing Western Conference teams night in and night out is not going to be the same. You don’t get a ‘night off.’ I would not want to end my career just making the playoffs.”
James is 33-years-old and turns 34 in December. How many more years does he have left of being the best player on the planet? He’s played in eight straight Finals, and even though his body is built like Superman, the wear and tear of all those games will eventually catch up to James.
The Warriors are likely going to win their third-straight championship in 2018-19, which would give Stephen Curry his fourth ring and Kevin Durant his third. With James taking his talents to the West, there’s a chance he might not play in a Finals ever again.
“They will be good, but I would be surprised if they make the top four in the West,” one Western Conference assistant coach told ESPN.
“I view the Lakers team next year as a playoff team because LeBron is still the best player in basketball but not a true championship contender for a season,” a Western Conference front-office executive told ESPN. “But [they are] set up very well to be one in the coming years.”
“They’ll be good, but the West is loaded,” another agent told ESPN. “Kawhi [Leonard] would make it more realistic. Good luck.”
James’ now former teammate, Larry Nance Jr., was at the dinner table in his Cleveland home when the news hit his phone that LeBron was headed to Los Angeles.
“Got the Woj alert,” Nance told ESPN. “We knew it was either one or two places [he would go to]. So I wasn’t, like, shocked. I didn’t break down crying. I kind of just got excited to prove myself, get a chance to step up a little bit and prove that this team is capable more than people think it is.
“I talked to J-Hart [Josh Hart] about it, Kuz [Kyle Kuzma] a little bit,” Nance told ESPN. “LeBron is demanding. He just demands the same level of professionalism and effort that he gives to his teammates, which [is] respect. But the biggest thing I told them is that, on the court, be ready at all times. Like, if you have your hands down and you are open, you will get hit in the face with the basketball. Seriously.”