LeBron James is fed up, and it feels like he’s throwing in the towel on this year’s L.A. Lakers team after Tuesday night’s 131-116 beating at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. When asked after the game if he thought the Lakers could reach the level of the Bucks, James got right to the point in answering, no.
I think LeBron has been here for a while but is finally willing to admit that he can’t do this with the current construction of this team. I must have assumed that Russell Westbrook would be fully integrated and in sync with the team by the All-Star break. Well, the break is just days away, and the Lakers are still doing some of the same things on the court that they were doing back in November.
This is by far the worst team James has been a part of when he wasn’t the only star caliber player. You’d have to go back to his first stint in Cleveland to find the last time a team featured LeBron and no other notable star. There was Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, then, of course, the second run with the Cavs featured Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love alongside King James. James’ first year (2018-19) in Los Angeles was spent with younger players who were viewed as trade bait for Anthony Davis.
As great as James still is on the court, time is running out to compete for and win more championships. After a disappointing first-round playoff exit last year, this was supposed to be a bounce-back campaign for LeBron and the Lakeshow. Instead, it’s turned out to be an utter disaster. The Lakers are three games under .500 (26-29) and will likely head into the All-Star Break in a similar position.
The trade deadline is Thursday, and the Lakers aren’t really in a position to do much. The one player most people think they should be looking to move is nearly untradeable. After watching Westbrook over the last three months, I can’t imagine there’s a huge market for his services. It’s clear to see that Russ’ athleticism has begun to betray him. So, the Lakers feel stuck in a sense.
More important than anything is the thought of James all but giving up publicly and conceding that this team can’t get better. Or, at the least, saying they can’t play on the level of Giannis and the Bucks. He’s not wrong, but it’s just weird to hear an athlete at James’ level admit this willingly to the media and fans. LeBron’s been the best player in the world for at least 15 of his 19 years as an NBA superstar. He’s the only active player in the GOAT conversation with Michael Jordan, and he’s telling us his team is no good.
That post-game press conference felt more like a cry for help from James. Bron’s plea was aimed directly at the organization and general manager Rob Pelinka. And maybe James is even admitting he’s not quite the GM he thinks he is. It’s been alleged forever that LeBron has run most of his teams with the exclusion of Miami (Pat Riley wasn’t having that). If James was indeed the primary advocate for the Lakers acquiring Westbrook, then it’s been a big mistake. James can’t afford a wasted season if he still hopes to win title number five. All eyes will be on Los Angeles, with the trade deadline less than 24 hours away. If L.A. has any chance during the second half of the season, they’ll need to make a big move pronto.
Update: Things continue to go great in LA after a Lakers’ 107-105 loss to Portland last night: