The guy is the Best basketball player in the game….
Is THAT enough?
He isn’t getting any younger…
Can he carry the LA lakers to the playoffs and possibly a championship this year.?….
His first with the team?
James, at 34, may still be in his prime, but the stakes are already high for a franchise that desperately wants to maximize his time in Los Angeles. And while neither James nor Lakers management has shown much enthusiasm for coaxing along a young core — the Lakers tried to ship half the roster to New Orleans last week — they are stuck in this together. James was supposed to be the savior of a flagship franchise gone astray; salvaging the final months of this year would be a key indicator that he still wields that type of power.
“We have to approach the rest of the season just like you would during the playoffs,” Kuzma said.
As Kuzma recalled his talk with James, he had no way of knowing that the Lakers were mere hours from suffering one final implosion before the N.B.A. All-Star break — a 117-113 loss to the Atlanta Hawks that left the team with a losing record and ample opportunity for soul searching.
“It’s time for us to get away and reflect a little bit about where we are as a group,” Coach Luke Walton said. “I think this first part of the season, we’ve gone through a lot of adversity. And we’re probably not where we want to be, but we’re still close enough.”
Close enough, that is, for vying for a spot in the playoffs, which was both an indication of the team’s modest goals and its sad reality. At 28-29, the Lakers are in 10th place in the Western Conference standings. It is unfamiliar territory for James, who has not been on a losing team this late in a season since he was a first-year forward with the Cavaliers.
“But with LeBron on your team, anything is possible,” said Mychal Thompson, a power forward for the “Showtime”-era Lakers and an analyst for the team’s radio broadcasts. “I mean, look at some of the teams he’s taken to the finals — including last season. He’s capable of doing great things if you just get on board and run with him.”
The Lakers, though, seem fragile after nearly five months of drama — all of it stemming directly or indirectly from the $154 million deal that James signed to join the team last summer. The pressure was on from the start, and little has gone according to plan….