When Magic Johnson signed LeBron James to the Lakers, he had one priority. That was to put talent all around him. Not only to compete for a title and, but to also prevent him from leaving like he did with Cleveland … twice. That’s the goal. The process is starting slowly, but that’s the endgame.
“We are trying to make sure that we watch his minutes but also that we don’t run everything through him because now it is Cleveland all over again and we don’t want that,” Johnson said via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “We want to get up and down.”
And that makes perfect sense. But there’s a big difference between Cleveland and these Lakers. The Cavaliers didn’t have a plan for LeBron’s exit. Not even the second time, which is even more damning. Plus, his contract in L.A. is for four seasons. He’s not going one year at a time, and that’s crucial.
Johnson put pen to paper on a four-year, $154-million deal with James over summer, saying he wanted to give James a lighter workload than in year’s past to keep him in L.A. for years. Los Angeles then brought in Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson — both veteran players with plenty of experience — to run an offense that the king commands. On top of that, the Lakers have a young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. In other words, there’s plenty of youth and energy to go around. There’s a balance with these Lakers.
Ideally, they’re only going to get better.
“Basically minutes, trying to make sure we don’t overplay him and then also usage of the ball in his hands,” Johnson adds. “We got a lot of ball-handlers so we feel we won’t overuse him in terms of his ball-handling and also every play has to run through him. I think we got proven scorers … Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram — and then when you have two point guards like Ball and Rondo, we don’t have to have LeBron having the ball in his hands all the time.”
So far, the LeBron Lakers are off to a fine start. They’re 12-9 and just three games out of first in the West. Right now, the playoff picture is so crowded that they’re only seventh. Still, LeBron is doing his part. He says he doesn’t know when to dominate and when to defer, but we think he’s doing alright. In his first season with the Lakers, James is averaging 28.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Remember, it’s his 16th NBA season. And, he turns 34 years old in December.
It’s clear that L.A. is not Cleveland, and really, Magic has no reason to fear. The fact that he’s coming out and saying this is more than the Cavs did. The Lakers have a plan while the Cavs did not. It truly is that simple.