Even 17 years into his legendary NBA career, LeBron James still faces new challenges. This year, COVID-19 put a pause on the sports world and has forced the NBA to resume play in the bubble. The Los Angeles Lakers may hold the No. 1 seed, but they failed to find any consistency since returning to action in Orlando.
Still, that did not stop Rob Pelinka from delivering a terrifying statement about his biggest star. And if the Lakers general manager’s words hold true, the rest of the NBA better be prepared for a lethal version of King James.
LeBron James just wrapped up another incredible season
When LeBron James looks back at his NBA career, he will never forget the 2019-20 season. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the 35-year-old finished the year with terrific numbers across the board.
Though James’ scoring average dropped to 25.3 (his lowest since 2015-16), he still shot 49.3% from the field. He also hit just under 35% of his 3-point attempts, which actually represented an improvement over last season’s ugly 33.9% mark.
James took on a more prominent role as the team’s primary ball-handler this season. Operating as more of a point guard, the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder led the NBA with 10.2 assists per contest. For a player who’s also his team’s primary scorer, that shows just how much of an impact James has with the ball in his hands.
However, the Lakers as a whole did not deliver tremendous results down the stretch. After taking down the Clippers in their first game in Orlando, LA lost all but two of its final seven games.
Lakers GM sends terrifying message about LeBron
For LeBron James, the regular season means little. After all, he did not threaten Michael Jordan’s GOAT status because of his regular-season numbers or All-Star berths. Rather, The Chosen One gets judged on his ability to deliver NBA titles.
James has already won three rings, but his legacy will come down to whether he can follow in Kobe Bryant’s footsteps as a champion in LA. Though the Lakers showed plenty of rust in their return to action, GM Rob Pelinka envisions big things ahead for his squad. Specifically, Bryant’s former agent delivered a terrifying message about LeBron James and his playoff mentality in an appearance on Spectrum SportsNet.
“You spend time around the great greats, not just the greats but some of the greatest to ever play, and when it gets close to playoff time, those guys get so locked in,” Pelinka said. “It’s just another level of the mental approach, the physical approach, the mindset. And you can see it in LeBron. He’s locked in to a mission.”
Pelinka witnessed Bryant become an NBA legend due in large part to his insatiable desire to win. And by the sound of it, LeBron James has a similar focus as he begins another playoff journey.
“He’s got one thing in sight,” Pelinka explained. “He wants to bring a title home to the Lakers and he’s going to do everything within his power to do it.”
Will the Lakers achieve their NBA title dream?
A locked-and-loaded LeBron James should terrify the rest of the NBA. But if the Lakers plan on hosting a title celebration this year, they’ll need the rest of their lineup to step up quickly.
Anthony Davis will be the X-factor this postseason. The dynamic big man averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in his first season as a Laker. However, the 6-foot-10, 253-pounder has played just 13 postseason games since going No. 1 overall in 2012.
Davis has struggled to find consistency since the NBA season resumed in late July. After putting up 34 points against the Clippers, he contributed just 14 on 2-of-7 shooting in a loss to the Toronto Raptors. Davis also failed to impress in poor efforts against the Oklahoma City Thunder (9 points on 3-of-11 shooting) and the Indiana Pacers (8 points on 3-of-14 shooting).
The Lakers need much more from the perennial All-Star as they begin their journey for another championship. But can Davis make a quick turnaround as the playoffs get underway? If not, a red-hot Damian Lillard could lead the Portland Trailblazers to an upset over the top-seeded Lakers.
But at the end of the day, LeBron James remains the trump card. As long as he’s healthy and focused, not even Lillard can stop the four-time NBA MVP. Let’s just see if The King gets some help from his teammates, or if the Lakers’ supporting cast will continue to struggle as the NBA playoffs begin.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.