While the signing of LeBron James meant the Los Angeles Lakers were adding a once-in-a-lifetime talent and the game’s best player, they emphasized not becoming beholden to his greatness. It’s for that reason the team sought to round out their roster with versatile playmakers.
After weeks of discussing how to avoid the habit of over relying on James, it was put into practice against the Dallas Mavericks. With their lead dwindling in the fourth quarter, the Lakers ran the offense through Brandon Ingram.
“We know LeBron can win games, and it’s important for us to win games, but we also know where we’re trying to get to, we need other people to step up and make plays,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton explained.
“Brandon had it rolling before his fifth foul. And I had played LeBron a lot of minutes. I was planning on getting him back out but the game wasn’t going for it. I tried to call some timeouts to get him some rest but we were also going to some other guys so he could let them perform down the stretch and get a little bit of a break. We always want guys taking a break on offense, not on defense.”
Even with those possessions, James was needed in order for the Lakers to hang on for a 114-113 victory. He lamented leaving Harrison Barnes open for a corner 3-pointer, and later atoned for it in some regard by making a free throw that gave the Lakers a decided lead.
In addition to the Lakers relying on Ingram late, Kyle Kuzma carried the load early by scoring 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting in the first quarter. James had five assists in the fist 12 minutes and is very much in support of the Lakers looking to spread the responsibility.
“Everyone is an option. B.I. got it going, Kuz got it going. Everyone is an option,” he said. Offense is never going to be our problem. When someone is out of rhythm, just try to help them get an easy basket.”
Walton has been clear about the need for patience in the early going while also acknowledging the Lakers have lofty goals come the end of the year. “We have to know where we’re headed, what your game plan is and how we’re going to get there,” he said.
“That is learning to play together, becoming a team and winning but also continuing to grow some of the young talent. We play a lot of young players. Not a lot of teams play as many young guys as we do, so we need to keep getting them better.”