While talking to the media following the Lakers’ 123-109 loss to the defending champion Warriors, LeBron James was measured. When asked about the Lakers’ shooting problems, he spoke matter-of-factly, about how the 3-pointer is not a team strength.
“I think we’re getting great looks, but it also could be teams giving us great looks,” James told reporters. “To be completely honest, we’re not a team that’s constructed of great shooting. That’s just [what] the truth of the matter is. It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team, but that doesn’t deter us from still trying to get great shots and when we get those opportunities we take them.”
He also brought up another legend — albeit in a different sport — who has exceeded his career-length expectancy to explain why one loss doesn’t mean the season is over.
“A football analogy, you had a bunch of guys who was [sic] underneath route runners, and wondering why the quarterback isn’t throwing 20-plus [yard] passes down the field,” James said. “Okay, that’s how the team is constructed. That don’t [sic] mean you can’t win. Brady did it.”
That’s quite the glass-half-full way to approach the Lakers’ issues. They don’t shoot well as a team, which makes the offense clunky, and their team defense has significantly fallen off after overhauling their roster last season by not re-signing Alex Caruso and trading for Russell Westbrook.
L.A.’s shooting is reminiscent of the 2002 New England Patriots team that went 9-7 and missed the playoffs after winning a Super Bowl. That season, the Patriots’ top pass catcher was Troy Brown, who hauled in 97 passes but averaged only 9.2 yards per reception. And while the mathematical conversion is not exact, it feels analogous to an NBA team in 2022 scoring 109 points while shooting 25 percent from three.
Downfield passing was certainly not a staple of the Patriots’ pre-Randy Moss run, but New England had the defense that kept it in games and an offense that stayed patient. Drives took precision and patience, so the Pats crafted that as skill to the best of their ability.
If Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, and Thomas Bryant (when he gets healthy) can provide some defensive stability, maybe the Lakers can apply the early aughts Patriots’ offensive principles to the basketball court. Work the ball towards the basket to find an opening as close and possible and fire away.
Now what Brady can learn from James is how to approach the final years of his career when there are struggles on the field. Their legacies are in tact but they continue to play because they can’t step away from the spotlight.
The Buccaneers are .500 heading into Week 7 , and whatever joy Brady had playing football appears gone. It could be his personal life, the Buccaneers offensive line struggles, or both. Still, he chose to return to the field for season No. 23, after announcing his retirement earlier this year.
Those of us who aren’t athletic enough to make money off of our talent can easily tell Brady he made a mistake by returning, but being a pro athlete is a strange job. They work their whole lives to get achieve a dream by early adulthood, and for many, they’re still at that stage of life when everything that they worked for is over.
Brady is closer to standard retirement age than all but a handful of professional athletes in the history of sports, but he still likely has a lot of life ahead of him. For all of the time he has put into his craft, he wants to get everything that he can out of it.
But if he’s going to hang on at 45-years-old, he can take a page out of James’ playbook, and learn to enjoy it. If Brady truly feels like playing football is comparable to a military deployment, he needs to start that Fox Sports job this Sunday. He’s been yelling at his teammates all season while James looked like he was having a little bit of fun last night, playing against the team that has had his number since 2015 after watching them receive another championship ring.
So sure, maybe the Lakers do need to go with the Kevin Faulk and Deion Branch offense to try and wring out as many victories as possible. However, Brady needs to get one of those white suits that James wore on Tuesday night and just be cool being one the best to ever score points for money.