As the Los Angeles Lakers geared up to chase superstars in 2018 NBA free agency, it was widely believed LeBron James and Paul George were atop their wish list. George had long been considered a Lakers’ lean, and the possibility of signing James was seemingly gaining steam by the day.
But as free agency began July 1, George immediately agreed to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder on a max contract. That he didn’t even grant the Lakers a meeting made his decision all the more shocking.
With George no longer an option for the Lakers, many believed James was also off the table. A common belief was Los Angeles needed a second start in order to convince the three-time champion of signing.
However, less than 24 hours after George’s decision, James’ agency announced he would sign a four-year contract with the Lakers. That in turn fueled speculation the team would again approach the San Antonio Spurs on a potential Kawhi Leonard trade.
That never manifested, and the Lakers instead filled out their roster by signing veterans to one-year contracts. Now James leads a roster with a blend of experience and a young core.
While he maintains the season is not one that will be lost as players develops, James said during Lakers Media Day that he’s mindful patience will be required of him, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I go about my business the same way but I also understand I’m going to have to have a little more patience with the young guys. Allie knows I’m not the most patient one. She already knows. She’s like, ‘You saying patience? Are you kidding me?’ I’m going to have to have some patience with the young guys. This is a new moment for those guys. They’re so used to being the prey where they’re kind of sneaking up on guys. Now we’re like the Predator. People know every time we step on the floor they are excited about the opportunity to play us and want to beat us. It’s a whole ‘nother ball game.”
Rather than serve as criticism or any sort of slight toward Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, James’ remarks are indicative of the awareness he has of the situation he’s joined. James previously explained he didn’t feel compelled to push the Lakers to trade for Leonard, because of his confidence in their young crop of players.
As with any new team, the Lakers will need time to gel, which the front office and head coach Luke Walton have emphasized. Ultimately, James and Walton believes the Lakers will be among one of the league’s better teams by season’s end so long as they make the necessary commitment to improve and excel.