LeBron James was here before.
Too often in his career, we have questioned his leadership. We wondered if he was too hard on his teammates, too demanding, too hard. We wondered if a team was leaving him.
It still happened Monday night, when the Lakers, supposed to be in the playoffs, lost their second consecutive game and their fourth in five games, this time against the unfortunate Memphis Grizzlies, 110-105. The Lakers seemed lost for much of the match, without energy, moribund. They looked like a team in crisis.
People immediately took James because of the discomfort of his team. We've already heard this before: playing with James is difficult, and he's not the best leader (maybe), and not everyone can stand it.
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And play with James is difficult. It has to do with who he is as a person, a bit, of course. It is demanding. He pushes his teammates. It requires greatness and does not want strategy with management or, sometimes, with media it does not think that talent is enough.
But to say that the loss of last night was purely under the direction of James, or that the Lakers are imploding, is ridiculous. These setbacks and chemical reactions are normal for an NBA franchise, especially one with a 29-31 rating.
Each team has games like the Lakers do Monday night. The only difference with LeBron James teams is that we notice them.
An inconsistent effort is an essential part of the NBA. This is not a shock for the players, but for the reality of the season. There are 82 games, which is so many games. The road trips are long and when the matches meet on the road, the teams struggle. They have a name: back to back, and ask everyone who follows the league regularly how NBA teams tend to behave on the second consecutive night.
Maintaining efforts throughout the game, at the highest level, is next to impossible. There's a reason why basketball in the playoffs does not feel like regular season basketball is different from regular season basketball.
The Warriors have made this difficult to understand because they win all the time, and one of their All-Stars members can take over when someone spends a night off, but even the big teams have inconsistent bumps. And the Lakers are not a good team. They are a decent team. They just have a magnifying glass on them.
Do you want to test my theory? Watch the Pistons on the second consecutive night. Attend a non-national televised match on the week between the Knicks and the Suns. Hell, look at the first third of this Washington Wizards season. The NBA players are exceptionally bright and talented and work incredibly hard, but in rashes, long road trips, when a team is in trouble, the scenes we saw with the Lakers Monday night are not unusual.
That's why it's so laughable that a rival GM (anonymously) stated that LeBron had "killed" Lakers chemistry. Their chemistry? What does that mean? How could another GM know? The Lakers finished 35-47 last year. Was it the result of their excellent chemistry?
That's why it will always be impossible to say if LeBron James' chemistry problems are the result of his personality or the magnifying glass that comes with him. We can never say. His impossible say.
Is James asking too much for his teammates? Or does he know that playing with him requires an almost constant monitoring of the media and that he is trying to prepare his young guys for this pressure? Or is the pressure coming from himself due to the scrutiny of the media and that he has nothing to do to put pressure on his team mates? How could anyone ever say it?
Look at the biggest debacle for Lakers chemistry this season, one might think: The failed attempt to trade half of the team to acquire Anthony Davis at the trading deadline. What did LeBron James have to do with that, aside from being good and the team management want to surround him with other good players? ?
The media and players can blame LeBron, his name not being included in the trade negotiations, and management may not have the patience to train younger players with James on the list. But he really did not do anything. He was just good and we paid attention to him.