LeBron James has changed.
And Los Angeles Lakers fans should be scared.
In his career, this would have normally been the time that James would have bolted a city and looked for his new homestead to graze.
After winning a championship — or two — LeBron would survey the land, realize that it would be impossible to grow anything more and bounce.
That’s what he did in Miami and Cleveland.
But it’s not how he handled L.A. faced with the same unpromising prospect.
Instead, LeBron picked Los Angeles, not the Lakers. That’s why he signed a new two-year, $97.1 million extension on Wednesday.
Despite James about to enter his 20th NBA season and his championship biological clock ticking louder and louder every night, he chose to stay put.
Clearly, it isn’t because he thinks he can win another championship. Your gut has to tell you he decided to stay put simply because he loves living in L.A.
No wonder the Bleacher Report reported on Thursday that James signed his extension despite “his private insistence the Lakers improve the current roster and trade for Kyrie Irving.”
Indeed, like putting the cart before the horse.
It’s kind of late in the game to sign first and then hope your demands get fulfilled.
By most accounts, James’ ideas for the Lakers moving forward will likely be out of reach.
Hence, James, who will be 38 in December, will be stuck with the same squad that went nearly three months without winning back-to-back games. Seems impossible in this NBA filled with weak teams. But it happened.
Yep, James will have Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook to complete his Big 3. On paper, it looks great. In reality, it’s nothing more than a crapshoot.
Davis can’t stay healthy. Worse, last year he came to training camp out of shape. And Westbrook is who he is — a NONE fit with James’ style of play.
Most NBA experts, analysts, and writers all predicted Westbrook wouldn’t work in L.A., despite his MVP award and his triple-doubles.
His confidence won’t be any better with all the talk that the Lakers were trying to unload him all summer. If Westbrook was traded, it would have been five different teams in five straight seasons.
Can you say unwanted?
Yet, LeBron reenlisted for this charade.
And for giggles, let’s say all three play most of the season and have their typical numbers. There’s no guarantee they coming out of the West. The conference is tough. The Warriors are back, coming off a title. There are a ton of tough, young teams — Phoenix, Memphis, New Orleans. Denver will finally be fully healthy.
And worse, the team playing in their own building will be back in the championship hunt with the return of a healthy Kawhi Leonard back with the Clippers.
For sure, the silver lining for LeBron is that he won that Bubble Championship in 2020 in Orlando. His time in L.A. won’t be for nothing even if the last few years produce no hardware, as expected.
Still, let’s face it. Outside of that title, the LeBron years in L.A. have been disappointing. It seems impossible but James has missed the playoffs in two of his four years with the Lakers. Another year, he was bounced in the first round.
And James has been hurt in three of the four years he’s been in SoCal.
That’s what happened late in a player’s career — injuries.
And teaming up with AD makes it an even tougher assignment because his career, despite being a younger player, has been marred by injuries. So much so, that TNT analyst Charles Barkley gave him the nickname “Street Clothes.”
Funny, unless you’re LeBron and your career is fleeting.
When LeBron retires officially, you would expect the Cavs to erect a statue of him out front of their arena. After all, he brought that city a championship after a 52-year drought.
But you get the feeling it won’t be a routine statue. In one hand, James will probably be holding a basketball. In the other hand, a suitcase.
That is James’ career in a nutshell.
Until now, at least. Maybe, he’s retired from trying to win. That’s what this move felt like.