September 29, 2018
Do stars still want to play with LeBron?
Over his career, LeBron James has built a reputation as the player that everyone wants to play with. In 2011, future hall of famers Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces with LeBron to form a super team in Miami. The three players enjoyed four years together with trips to the Finals each of those years and NBA Championships in 2012 and 2013.
LeBron moved on to Cleveland in the summer of 2014 to team up with the recently extended Kyrie Irving. The team also traded for Kevin Love before the beginning of the season. The trio played together for three years through the 2016-2017 season. During the 2017 offseason, Kyrie Irving demanded to be traded from the Cavaliers. Most people acknowledge that Kyrie asked to be traded to separate himself from James and escape his shadow. This was the first sign that some players may not enjoy playing with LeBron.
Last season the Cavs added numerous high profile players through the Kyrie Irving trade and free agency including Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose. All of these players were shipped off at the trade deadline when management realized that the locker room chemistry was irreparable. The fact that LeBron struggled to mesh with these players in Cleveland is another sign that players do not want to play with LeBron.
Paul George who asked to be traded to the Lakers in 2017 did not seem too excited with the prospect of playing alongside LeBron when he announced that he would be returning to the Thunder before the free agency period began. Most people had assumed that George would meet with the Lakers and strongly consider playing for them, particularly if they were able to lure in the Cavs star.
When the Kawhi Leonard trade sweepstakes began he reportedly listed the Lakers as his preferred destination, but once they signed LeBron, his interest in the team reportedly waned. Now, the latest report is that Jimmy Butler wants to go to the Heat, the Knicks, the Clippers, or the Nets. Butler listed all of the major market teams except LeBron’s Lakers. As expected based on the teams listed, another report stated that Butler is not interested in going to the Lakers and where his star would be outshined by LeBron.
Although nobody wonders if the Lakers made the right decision signing LeBron, there is legitimate reason to worry that no high profile stars will join him in L.A. There are rumors that other players do not want to play alongside LeBron because he gets most of the credit when the team wins while his teammates and coaches get most of the blame when they lose. Former teammates of James including Channing Frye have uttered this sentiment publicly, explaining that it is not always easy to play with LeBron. Similar to most players who have been the best in the world, LeBron works very hard, he pushes his teammates, and he has high expectations. LeBron is also 6-8 years older than most highly pursued free agents, so there may be a generational disconnect between some younger stars and him. To that point, all of the free agents that the Lakers signed after LeBron are veterans who are close to his age or have gone to battle against him in the playoffs. For this reason, a free agent close to 30 years old such as Kevin Durant may be more likely to sign with the Lakers than one of the younger max players.
I am sure that the Lakers are perfectly content having LeBron James in Los Angeles, but I doubt they were expecting to be spurned by stars avoiding the shadow of number 23.
Jeff Pulver - All Things Good Sports (@ATGSportsMedia)
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