LeBron James and the Lakers’ Most Troubling Concern Is Happening off the Court, According to Iman Shumpert
Everyone seems to have an answer for what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers. Some people believe LeBron James isn’t the franchise-carrying player he once was. Others point to Russell Westbrook’s turnovers and missed shots. Many others will reference LA’s growing list of injuries.
Iman Shumpert, a former teammate of James, offered his take as to what’s troubling the 17-19 Lakers. And it has nothing to do with anything the Purple and Gold are currently doing on the basketball court.
The Lakers’ roster underwent a major overhaul last offseason
Following a 2019-20 season that resulted in title number 17, the Lakers entered last year with a roster many expected to compete for a title once again. But injuries to LeBron and Anthony Davis highlighted some troubling depth, and as a result, LA’s repeat bid ended in the first round of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.
This summer, the Lakers made it a point to acquire a third superstar. They seemingly did so in Westbrook, the nine-time All-Star and 2016-17 MVP. But the trade for Russ cost them longtime role players Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope along with former Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell.
Along with those three, LA also said goodbye to Alex Caruso, Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews, and more. In the end, only James, Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker stayed in Tinseltown.
With three All-Stars plus the newly-extended Horton-Tucker, general manager Rob Pelinka went to work on the 2021-22 roster. This summer, the Lakers surrounded their new core with Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, and more. But the returns have hardly been fruitful, as LA’s 17-19 record places them just two games ahead of the 11-seed Sacramento Kings.
Iman Shumpert thinks LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have off-court chemistry issues
Watching the Lakers play basketball this season has been a painful exercise at times. Often, the team looks disjointed. And considering the high-IQ player LeBron is, his teammates can not be on a different wavelength than he is.
Shumpert knows all about playing with James. The 10-year veteran spent the better part of four seasons with the King on the Cleveland Cavaliers, going to four NBA Finals and winning one of them. As he explained on The Bootleg Kev Podcast, chemistry is a big thing the Cavs had. And it’s something he feels the Lakers lack.
“To me, they don’t get down together. I don’t feel like they’re hanging out.”Iman Shumpert
“There was a time where during that Cavs season, Bron literally stressed the importance of us all hanging out together,” Shumpert continued. “I don’t think they’ve got a chance yet [to hang out together]. Maybe COVID, all this other stuff. It just doesn’t look like a bunch of guys that have been hanging out and playing pick-up against each other enough, you know what I’m saying? It’s like they don’t know how to all-the-way get each other vibing.”
The Lakers might need more from LeBron as a leader
Any time you have a team with new faces, it’s going to take a while to find a groove. But considering how many new faces the Lakers have along with the bouts with health and safety protocols, it’s no wonder LA looks nowhere close to championship caliber.
Interestingly enough, Shumpert’s opinion on the Lakers also takes an indirect shot at LeBron. The 31-year-old referenced how James would always emphasize hanging out together. He even told Bootleg Kev how the future Hall of Famer would have gatherings at his house like Halloween parties for his teammates to participate in.
Given his recent streak of 30-point outings, LeBron is doing everything he can on the court to propel the Lakers forward. But off of it, the King might need to be more of a leader when it comes to building overall team chemistry. While Shumpert is simply an outsider looking in (as are we), LA’s discombobulated play thus far is a stark departure from LeBron’s Finals teams of old that also featured countless new faces on a nearly-annual basis.
The Lakers will need better play from Westbrook and their role players to turn things around, that much is certain. But some off-the-court gatherings initiated by LeBron could help the overall chemistry of this lackluster bunch.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.