OUR SPORTS WORLD
Los Angeles has always been about the art of the Big Deal. Big companies, big mergers, big movies. And big time L.A. basketball is no different.
They added Wilt from Philadelphia, Kareem from Milwaukee, Shaq from Orlando, Kobe from Charlotte, and to a lesser, but just as valuable extent, Pau Gasol from Memphis. All of those deals made the Los Angeles Lakers, The Los Angeles Lakers. And now, Magic Johnson has caught perhaps the franchise's biggest bounty ever: LeBron James.
So far, the Lakers have signed Lance Stephenson and Javale McGee to go along with LeBron. Nice players, but none of these guys will be Robin to James' Batman. They're not even Alfred the butler.
The guys who would have made the best sidekicks have already made their own spin-off series. L.A. native Paul George is staying in Oklahoma City. LeBron's buddy Chris Paul is resigning in Houston. Kevin Durant is staying put with the Warriors. And if Los Angeles wants Kawhi Leonard this year, it'll cost them Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and a ton of future draft picks just to start the trade talks with San Antonio.
But the Lakers still have enough cap space for another max contract to build their super-team. But who will be? Will it be Demarcus Cousins? The talented, but ahem, headstrong center is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. How about Clint Capella? His playoff performances for the Houston Rockets got him a lot of interest, but is he worth a max deal? Do either of these two free agents even fit Luke Walton's offense?
LeBron James is incredibly gifted, highly intelligent, and arguably, the most talented player basketball in history. But the "system" he's played in usually consists of him dribbling with the ball ad nauseam, driving to the hoop for a basket or kicking it out to a teammate who's been camped out at the three point line the entire possession. Walton has implemented the ball movement philosophy he learned in Golden State. LeBron has seen how good this system can be with the right parts. Certainly, he can adapt his game into a system that already is well suited for his talents, can't he?
But he's got to know that he will need to be the clear leader for a young roster with some talent. His intelligence and work ethic will be invaluable to these players. Maybe, even just by osmosis, these young players will learn what it means to play for a championship.
James has to know that wherever he goes, a circus seems to follow, usually through his own doing. And for some reason, he likes to have a few bad acts to come with him. There's already a big loudmouth hovering around that the Lakers have done their best to mute. Don't send in the clowns.
The Lakers have to set boundaries. And James must understand them. Players play, coaches coach, and the front office builds the roster. Any intermixing of the three will result in a radioactive mess. Both the Lakers and LeBron have firsthand experience with that as well. It cannot happen again.
But above all else, the Los Angeles Lakers and their rabid fan base don't hold ticker-tape parades for Western Conference titles. They don't just hang the jerseys of just anyone who wore the purple and gold at the Staples Center. It's not about winning a championship, it's about winning multiple championships.
There are deals yet to come, I'm certain. There could be some this year, could be next. And right now, as currently constructed, the Lakers aren't ready. At best, they are the third best team in the West. At best. At worst, LeBron will be babysitting a bunch of not ready for prime-time players.
LeBron, the clock is ticking, and you're already running behind.