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LeBron: Surfin’ US LA

Near Santa Monica Pier, two Lakers fans discuss the latest “LeBron JamLakers” news. Mike turns to Janine and says:

“This is never going to work. LeBron doesn’t understand he can’t command an historic frachise like the Lakers. This is gonna turn bad faster than you can say LeBron Raymone James. Buss and Magic won’t tolerate his recurrent meddling.”

Janine takes some time to formulate some thoughts after eating the last bite of her cheese sandwich and delivers the counter-strike:

“No way! You don’t get it. Jeannie and Magic have granted LeBron the carte blanche. They’re in sync. This season is just to sort things out and decide who’s all in, moving forward. Don’t “oversink” it. Consider this a tryout season because that’s what it is. Next year – with on or more Superstars – will be the real deal. This is solely LBJ “acclimation season”, so to speak.

Mike finishes his smoothie and quickly retorts:

“I get your point. Makes sense. Having said that, I’m still not convinced. Let’s hope you’re right.”

 

LBJ LAKERS TRIANGLE

Acquiring LeBron James, today’s most revered NBA Superstar (except in Warriors/Celtics land), was an exceptional catch from the Lakers organization. Much like the Miami Heat period and the second coming of the King in Cleveland, everyone knows having LeBron James automatically turns a franchise into a contender. Nevertheless, unlike these two defining moments in LeBron’s career, this LA chapter is nothing but an enigma wrapped in tin foil. CONFIDENTIAL reasons apart, this season goals are clouded by numerous conspiracy theories, fuelled by insanely knowledgeable and clearly tormented Lakers fans, one of the NBA teams with fans gushing about their past glories all over the world.

LeBron’s arrival to LA immediately shaped a curious triangle: his relationship with Luke Walton, his rapport with “the oldies” and his need for tutoring “The Lakers babies”

LeBron: “I’m your father, Luke!”

Throughout his career, LeBron always had a word to say. In fact, he always had a lot of words to say, regarding his coaches tenure. So many that sometimes he decided to extinguish their voices altogether. Evidently, David Blatt is the best example:

Will his relationship with Luke Walton work? Does he see him as extra help or an extra hurdle? According to news.com.au (as well as many other reports), LA Lakers boss is under the pump after LeBron’s arrival:

“Walton went 61-103 in his first two seasons, but those were rebuilding and tanking teams focused on lottery positioning and waiting for James to choose them in free agency.

During pre-season, Johnson spoke of the need to be patient. But that patience is starting to wear thin.

Now that James has arrived, the pressure is on Walton to win now.”

After a predictable rocky start, the Lakers boat seems to be stabilizing. Is Luke Walton a cause or merely a consequence of the latest wins? And is LeBron already playing accordingly to his plays or will he concede a grace period so Walton can prove his value, now that he’s coaching a team with realistic chances of making the playoffs? The next few weeks should provide us a clear indication on Luke’s future. Will he be forced to admit LeBron is his Lakers Darth Vader? Or will he keep floating above the turbulent Lakers waves?

In my not so modest opinion, Lakers results until Christmas will dictate Luke Walton’s future. Although LeBron has been more patient lately, he never had the patience to wait forever. One could say he was always eager to pull the gun without delivering the roses.

The oldies

The ensemble cast surrounding LeBron James seems like an obscure B side tune from the Platters:

Talented? No doubt! Yet, still craving for deserved recognition. As Rohan Nadkarni wrote,

“So much has been made about the Lakers’ supporting cast since LeBron James made his westward move.”

 

The new Lakers A-Team comprised of Beasley, Lance Stephenson, Rondo, McGee and now Tyson Chandler could make the most relaxed Zen coach out there lose sleep at night. Explosive personalities, to say the least. Rondo already had an outburst. Lance is trying hard to accept LeBron’s challenge, as he provides the wild, funny shennanigans. McGee has been solid but not decisive. Chandler provides a much needed help to an evident flaw in this Lakers roster: their frontcourt. Beasley hasn’t been a factor so far.

Stephenson believes in LeBron’s vision:

“The focus and communications skills with everyone starts with LeBron,” the former Indiana Pacers player said. “It’s contagious and helps the whole team.”

 

Can LBJ joggle all these wild characters and make them sail alongside the Lakers babies? Are their personal agendas lined up with what LeBron wants, moving forward? There are so many ways this can go. Expectations will play a big role on this season results. Will the oldies comply with the fact they sometimes must fold to the young guns? And will they gladly accept this condition or will they start imploding this team from the cold, no minutes bench seats?

Again, LeBron’s fingerprints will be decisive guiding this weird Lakers vessel made of old logs and unexperienced sailors through the unpredictable West Conference Ocean.

On the other hand, Luke Walton influence – in conjunction with LeBron, never against him – will prove decisive because he knows the young players unlike anyone else. He can direct them to reach new heights while still respecting the oldies experience and advice. Easier said than done. Fascinating situation, from a coaches perspective. This is one challenge every coach would die for. And if you think this was a not so surreptitious way to say Luke’s might “die” soon as the Lakers coach, kudos to you.

The Lakers babies

It’s one thing to start your career in a small market, low profile NBA team. Another is to start in one of the only two teams that constitute “NBA Royalty”, Lakers and Celtics (Bulls, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs are mere “products of a specific time”, not withstanding the test of time and the Warriors dynasty might be walking over shattered glass right now).

So many questions. Ingram, the loved/hated Laker. Future star for some, expendable bust for others. Lonzo and all the crazy “Lonziness” surrounding his original entry into the NBA, filled with a myriad of hilarious takes from his family’s biz joint ventures. Kuzma, perhaps the most consistent so far. Will he maintain and surpass his basketball level? Will he stall? How high is Kyle’s ceiling? Then there’s Hart, considered by many a diamond waiting to be polished.

If playing for the Lakers at the start of your career isn’t challenging enough, imagine doing it with the added pressure of sharing playing time with the most charismatic player of modern times and a collection of Hartigan’s and Marv’s (shoutout to the ones who got the Sin City reference).

Surfin’ US LA

Can he? Will he? According to Seerat Sohi :

“That has to be appealing to James, whose blemishes have been as memorable as his masterstrokes. If you win enough in Los Angeles, it’ll be like you never lost.

In the final arc of a career that has been defined by redemption more than perfection, what greater reward could LeBron James ask for?”

Just a few days ago, LeBron conquered another milestone. This time, overcoming the one and only Wilt Chamberlain, regarded by many as the greatest NBA player before Jordan.

As a serial NBA records killer, LeBron has all the adoration from his peers. Nevertheless, going to the Lakers meant diving right into one of the most sensitive subjects amongst the Lakers Nation: Kobe or LeBron? Just a few games ago, LeBron was crucified, Sixto Rodriguez style, for failing to deliver the goods when it counted the most. The hardcore Kobe fans are having a hard time trying to reconcile their previous disdain for LeBron with their eagerness to conquer another ring with the King’s help. In addition, the recurring MJ-LBJ debate – generated by die hard LeBron fans – will never end, even though their similarity is as tangible as that Bunny running aroung with the clock on Alice in Wonderland.

Coaching, players and legacy issues aside, the NBA Scholar – who sometimes writes in the third person just because – is interested to know if LeBron will stay in LA, even if everything goes wrong. In LeBron’s book, everything only means one thing, really: failing to win his fourth Championship in the city of angels.

Therefore, expect the typical LeBron’s drama, sprinkled with Hollywood tirades and conspiracy theories throughout this season.

There will be comedy too, provided by some of their most outlandish players. “Lance me up, Scotty.”

A breakup ram(one)com with Luke Walton might be in the horizon.

Good cop, bad cop flick? Sure. Magic and Buss will have to anchor this delicate Lakers raft.

Terror? Rondo knows this script like no one else.

Detective movie? Sure. It will be fun to guess who stays and who leaves LeBron’s ship, moving forward.

All in all, this will be one of the most intriguing Lakers seasons in recent years. So many angles to be considered. As for LeBron, his rookie season in the wild, wild west is THE storyline this season.

If everything goes wrong, though, will he still sing along or is this a case of a “Quo Vadis” after, LeBron?

 

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