The euphoria of LeBron James coming to Los Angeles is starting to wear off as the Lakers muster only three wins against five losses to open the season. As a longtime fan of the game, I can tell you that LeBron is everything he is made out to be on the court and even more of a force than I realized off of the court, but winning basketball games is still what matters most to fans. The good news is the Lakers are young and have shown glimmers of offensive brilliance in their first few games, the bad news is they have the worst defense in the league and a lot of problems in the middle. Still, the thing that strikes me the most is how poorly they close out games and surprisingly, LeBron is part of the problem in this regard. When the Lakers have had leads in the fourth quarter, the other Lakers players and their head coach shut down and let LeBron do everything. He assumes the point guard position, holds the ball near mid court until the shot clock is down to less than 10 seconds, and then hurryingly makes a play to the basket or misses a fall-away jump shot. The rest of the Lakers on the court literally stand around and watch him play. We saw some of that during the Kobe era, but not for an entire quarter. For years, basketball analysts have been reluctant to hail King James as the greatest ever, partially because of the way he has occasionally underperformed at the end of big games. It feels peculiar to watch the greatest player on the planet struggle so mightily when the game is on the line. Against the Spurs, LeBron nailed a long three-pointer to send the game to overtime but subsequently missed two game-clinching free throws in the final seconds that cost the Lakers the game.
I have become a huge LeBron fan, mostly for being the role model that he is, and I think he will ultimately succeed in LA like he has everywhere else he has played, but I think that happens when he trusts his teammates a little more during crunch time. On top of basketball Lebron has become a media mogul with feature films and new projects on multiple OTT networks, but his success on the basketball court is still what defines his brand. He knows it, his people know it and therefore I am confident he will succeed. It might be painful at first, but I would bet by the end of the season, the Lakers will be a contender in the West.