LeBron James’ next chapter officially begins this week. The former Cavs star signed his 4-year, nearly $154 million contract with the L.A. Lakers on Monday. But is he really going to be happy in his new home?
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says James has been used to teaming up with marquee players, and this Lakers team is lacking a strong supporting cast.
When LeBron James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat, he formed a 'big three' with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Then, when he returned to Cleveland in 2014, he formed a new big three with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
"There was a promise made to LeBron that they could work a deal for Kevin Love," Pluto says. The Cavs traded their No. 1 draft pick that year, Andrew Wiggins, to Minnesota for Love.
Pluto says the Lakers have solid players in Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram.
But so far, he says they haven't added much to their roster to help James.
In the offseason they've signed Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. Pluto says those two, along with current Laker Lonzo Ball, aren't good outside shooters.
"LeBron likes to drive to rim; people collapse on him and he'll throw it out to somebody to make a three-pointers," Pluto said.
In Cleveland the past two seasons, for example, he recruited shooters like Kyle Korver. And, going back much further, he had a similar player at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
"In his freshman year, the first state title he won, he had a little 5'2" little guard named Dru Joyce III," Pluto said. "He would shoot the ball from down around his waist somewhere. They were like big rainbows. And they would go in. They played together for four years."
"I look at the Lakers, and they're signing a bunch of role players who don't even particularly fit," Pluto said.
In addition to a lack of All-Stars, the Lakers have an inexperienced coach in Luke Walton.
"He was a marginal player who played against LeBron. He's basically is just a first-time coach," Pluto said. "He has no championship rings as a coach. He's not going to have a lot of credibility with LeBron if things go bad."
Pluto acknowledges that James was mostly driven by allure of the Los Angeles and Hollywood market.
"It shows that LeBron's mind was in a different spot this time," Pluto said. "When he went to Miami, it was about winning championships. He won two. When he came back to Cleveland in 2014, it was about winning one title. His former coach, Mike Brown, said LeBron wanted to make things right because he knew he left the wrong way."
A Drive To Win
Still, Pluto says, LeBron doesn't want to lose.
"Unless [the Lakers] find a way to add another star between now and opening day, they'll start out slow; things won't go well. And, as we know, even when things are going well, LeBron gets cranky around January," Pluto said. "By then he's ready for the playoffs to start. And if they're not winning, he's going to be pounding on Magic Johnson's door and asking for players.
The Lakers could still make some moves and add some players, but getting star quality could be a challenge.
"I don't think anybody is real anxious about helping LeBron right now. If you're in the Western Conference, why would you want to trade anybody to the Lakers and make your life harder?," Pluto said.
Dealing With Adversity
"I wonder if LeBron really will be able to take the pain of what this team could look like early," Pluto says. "I never underestimate LeBron james. he can go through all this turmoil and drama and turn the roster upside down like the Cavaliers did a couple times when he was here and still go deep into the playoffs.
"But this time he clearly didn't have the same assurances when he switched teams like he did the previous two."