As if Lebron signing with the west-coast Yankees wasn’t an explosion of hoops dialect enough for us all to digest, the Lakers dropped more bombs over Lebron-Land this week by signing two grumpy-cat, ball-dominant non-shooting guards in Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo.
Most of you will remember Lance Stephenson for moments like this:
Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations, Kevin Pritchard, described Stephenson in an interesting way recent:
“Sometimes he was the best player on our team, and sometimes he was the best player on the other team,” Pritchard told reporters. “We love Lance and we wish him the best.”
The question must be posed, in this stage of Lebron’s career, why would he OK the signing of an aging vet who is capable of such bad breath, both figuratively and literally? And even more-so, why sign Rajon Rondo, an equally opinionated/shit-starter, who can’t shoot the ball outside of 10 feet, and has never met a coach he didn’t hate? I mean, the Lakers already have one inept-shooting point guard on the squad – Lonzo Ball. I envision Lebron yelling at a lot of dudes for missing open jumpers in 2018-19.
On paper, this seems contradictory to what’s worked for Lebron’s championship level teams – the blueprint has always been to surround Lebron with specialized, skilled shooters and a big man who can rebound, defend and clean up the mess on the offensive boards.
This rubric gave Lebron the space to operate and kick out to open shooters as defenses collapsed, but with this current Lakers roster – Lebron is the best option to create, finish at the rim AND shoot open three-pointers. So how can Lebron drive and kick to himself? I mean, he’s good…..but that’s next-level, NBA Jam-type cheat codes.
Thankfully, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is here to tell us a little bit about what the hell is actually going on. According to Windhorst’s sources, all the moves the Lakers have made since signing LeBron were discussed by LeBron and team president Magic Johnson ahead of time. The best answer tot he “WTF” question, according to Windhorst, is that LeBron is tired, tired, tired.
The Cavs were a team of specialists — many of them shooters — who were placed around the league’s ultimate Swiss Army knife. But at times, especially during the playoffs, it did have the feel that James was playing 1-on-5 and needing to play 48 minutes because he was the team’s only true creator and playmaker.
What Johnson pitched to James was a team stocked with tough-minded playmakers like Stephenson and Rondo who could free up James to finish in the lanes and from the post, rather than having to create the lion’s share of the offense himself. Rondo and Stephenson are also defensively versatile as their length enables them to be effective defenders in switches. That also follows with the talents of the 6-foot-6 Ball, who showed the ability to be an elite rebounder and defender for a guard in his rookie year.
At first glance, this makes some sense. If Lebron is considering the idea of taking the Jordan-later years role of scoring the ball more from the post, then I can see how letting Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, Lance Stephenson, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma drive and create or cut off the ball when Lebron posts up can work. But how many of Lebron’s post-up, kick-out-for bricked open jumpers from Rondo and Ball will it take before LBJ goes full Luke Skywalker and starts dancing on some storm troopers? And how many possessions where Rondo, Ball or Stephenson literally dribble the burnt-orange off the ball for an entire shot-clock before Lebron turns full alpha-male and demands the ball?
Rajon Rondo is an incredible basketball mind, don’t get that twisted – around the NBA he is considered to have one of the highest basketball IQ’s in the game. But that knowledge and genius comes with a price of arrogance, bull-headed stubbornness and an argumentative nature. How will that sit with Lebron come crunch time? This seems like a move to keep Lebron from putting unnecessary miles on his tires throughout the regular season, but can you beat the Rockets in the playoffs with this roster? Can you beat Golden State in the playoffs?
And seriously, WHO THE HECK IS GONNA SHOOT THE BALL FROM THREE?
How do you beat the Warriors when you can’t keep up with the three-ball? Defense may win championships, but in this current NBA – great shooting ALWAYS beats great defense.