The 2018-19 NBA season was a very interesting one for both LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma as the former put up comparable career numbers in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but seemed to have less of an impact overall.
Meanwhile, Kuzma showed flashes of improvement in different areas of his game, but his three-point shooting fell to a below average level.
This has led many to question what they will bring to the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, especially James. Entering his 17th season, he is at a point where most players’ level of play begins to fall. Combined with suffering his first serious injury, the overall lack of impact he had on the team’s record, and failing to make the playoffs, he has faced a lot more criticism than in years past.
However, that seems to have served as extra motivation for James as Kuzma recently spoke with Cari Champion of ESPN and said his teammate has been very locked in this summer and will be ready for Year 2:
“That dude is ready. He’s ready. I think this year, this offseason… you see just people slandering his name and saying this about him, saying that. But he’s been super motivated this offseason working between shooting movies and he’s in the gym. He’s in the gym early, night, whatever, so just being locked in. That’s the biggest thing talking about being ready for it all.”
For someone at the level of James — who has done everything there is to do at this stage of his career — it can sometimes be hard to find that extra motivation. James has multiple NBA championships, regular season and NBA Finals MVPs, and is already considered one of the greatest players in league history.
However, he has rarely been doubted or at least questioned the way he has been this offseason.
In fairness, some of the questions are legitimate. The league has rarely seen someone play at such a high level 17 seasons into his career and even someone like James would have to show signs of decline at some point. His first serious injury would seem to be proof that his body might finally be breaking down at least a little bit.
Having said this, it could be exactly what James needs. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan were known to create slights in their head in order to push and motivate themselves even further. James doesn’t need to do that because the fans are doing it for him, and the league may be put on notice once the season starts.
Considering the Lakers play the Los Angeles Clippers on Opening Night, he doesn’t have a choice.