When LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, he understood what he was getting himself into without a second All-Star player.
With a young core and ‘tough-minded’ playmakers on one-year deals, the Lakers exceeded expectations to begin the 2018-19 NBA season heading into Christmas Day.
While the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors and were fourth in the Western Conference, they lost James and Rajon Rondo in the very same game.
As James missed 17 consecutive games and the Lakers were slipping out of playoff contention, they held a players-only meeting to address his body language, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
The meeting in Memphis was a retort of sorts. In what became an open forum, several players spoke up. Players focused on James’ inconsistent body language throughout the year. The four-time MVP copped to the critique, telling his teammates that, in essence, cutting out behavior like slumped shoulders and sideways glances has been something he has tried to work on his entire career.
Widely considered one of the best teammates, that narrative has quickly changed and James’ leadership has been questioned. Coming off three championships in eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances, the 34-year-old acknowledged he had to be more patient in previous seasons, but no one could have predicted this outcome.
In Year 1 with the Lakers, James suffered the worst injury of his career and the Lakers have missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. With six months to prepare for the 2019-20 season, all of the attention will be on a motivated James.