The Los Angeles Lakers figured to have put an end to their five-year playoff drought in one fell swoop this summer when LeBron James agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract during NBA free agency.
James was of course the Lakers’ top target in what president of basketball operations Magic Johnson said was a two-year window to completely overhaul the team and restore the historic franchise back to hits lofty height.
James strategically controlled how, where and when he made public comments about signing with the Lakers, and Media Day marked his first official session with the team since signing.
“I believe the conversation I had with Magic that night was a special night,” James said, when asked about his meeting with Johnson at the outset of free agency.
After coming to terms with James, the Lakers filled out the roster by signing Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. It was an unconventional approach by a front office building a team around James.
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) September 24, 2018
The Lakers brass explained their decisions as aiming to surround him with versatility and playmakers. “That’s definitely exciting, for sure,” James answered when asked about being part of a team that features player who can handle the ball themselves.
“When you see so many ball handlers, so many guys can do multiple things: pass, shoot, rebound, get out and run. I look forward to seeing how we can all work together.”
Much is expected of James as he now becomes the leader of a roster that’s a mix of veterans on one-year contracts and a growing young core. In the time leading up to free agency, there was speculation James would not sign with the Lakers if they didn’t have another All-Star in the wings.
Many believed that would be Paul George but he surprisingly re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Focus then shifted to Kawhi Leonard but the Lakers ultimately decided against sending a haul to the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard, who is due to be part of the 2019 free agency class.
For now, James will look to strike a balance between leading the Lakers’ offense while also allowing others to alleviate some of the pressure on him.