After losing in disappointing fashion in his second straight finals, the NBA landscape as us fans knew it was at the hands of Lebron “King” James. James had the choice to opt out into his final year of his contract or opt out and become a free agent, after recently returning to his hometown team in the Cleveland Cavaliers and bringing the franchise their first championship in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Unlike Lebron’s other free agency decisions, he announced his decision very early and very low key. A press release from his agency (Klutch Sports) announced his decision to join the Lakers on a four-year deal with a player option in the last year.
The move is shocking, because this is the toughest basketball decision Lebron could make. For a player who has always played in the Eastern Conference and has been to eight straight NBA finals, to go to the Western Conference, and having to go through powerhouses such as Golden State and Houston to even make it to the finals will be a much tougher task than he has ever faced, but it’s a gutsy move that proves that he is at the point of his career where he is looking at more than just basketball.
Lebron has shown that he has no plans on slowing down as far as numbers go. In his 15th NBA season, he still was able to average 28 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists while shooting 54 percent for the field, 37 percent from the three all while averaging nearly 37 minutes a game. For James to accomplish those numbers and take on that many minutes in this stage of his careers speaks to his durability and just how great of a player he is even this late in. In the playoffs? Lebron as always took it to another level with scoring, averaging 34 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds on 53 percent shooting from the field, 34 percent shooting from three all while playing almost 42 minutes a game.
That’s enough of what Lebron did last year, the real question is how will this new Lakers team shape up? Currently the roster consists of a nucleus centered around young players such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, but with talks of the Lakers landing Kawhi Leonard, one of those pieces may sadly be soon gone, that piece looks like it will be Ingram. Ingram, who is only 20, saw major progression in his second year and looked to be the up and coming star for the Los Angeles Lakers. Ingram increased in every major statistical category last season. Ingram went from averaging just 9 points a game to 16, from 2 assists to 4, from 4 rebounds to 5, but his most important improvements? His shooting. Ingram improved on his field goal shooting, bolstering up to 49 percent, 9 percent higher than last year, and also he improved heavily from beyond the arc, going from shooting a pedestrian 29 percent to almost 40 percent form three. If the Lakers are not able to grab Kawhi this year, Ingram playing onside of Lebron could prove to be more beneficial for his growth as a basketball player and to learn from a savvy veteran.
Regardless of any of that, Lebron will have some young guns who are wiling to soak up his knowledge and will be facing one of the toughest challenges of his career, but if young players are willing to listen to anybody it would be Lebron, who many of these same players grew up idolizing because he was and still is the best player of their generation. Magic Johnson did a wonderful job in getting Lebron on board, now the hard work is done, now it’s time to see where the other dominoes fall, it’s a beautiful day in Laker Nation, is showtime finally back? We don’t know yet, but the King’s Reign in LA has officially begun.