- Teams around the NBA are still talking about LeBron James’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Teams in the Eastern Conference have acknowledged that their paths forward are easier with James out of the way, while teams in the West have accepted that the conference just got tougher.
- James’ Lakers will also have a tougher time getting into the playoffs because of the crowded Western Conference, but most expect them to do it.
With the NBA season around the corner and teams reporting for media days and training camps this week, it appears one topic is still buzzing around the league – LeBron James’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s been nearly three months since James changed conferences, but around the league, there’s still great interest into how that move will play out. In part, that’s because of the odd team that’s been assembled around James – a mix of young players and journeymen supporting cast.
However, it is also rare to see a superstar of James’ magnitude change conferences. James ruled the Eastern Conference for eight years, making the Finals from 2011 to 2018. He was the most consistent force in the league. Now, his departure (or arrival, depending on your vantage point) is set to cause a shake-up in the league.
For instance, Eastern Conference teams are already thinking about the new opportunity that awaits them. Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan described the need for a new face in the East.
Nate McMillan on the mood of the Eastern Conference without LeBron James. Mentions the East being “faceless” and someone needing to step in and solidify themselves pic.twitter.com/AychWtGQwv
— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) September 24, 2018
Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks seems refreshed.
Brooks on LeBron to LA: “It’s great, a LeBron-less East.”
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) September 24, 2018
In a Players’ Tribune conversation between Denver Nuggets point guard Isaiah Thomas and Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz, the two players even discussed how the East was now wide open.
“With LeBron coming west, that opens up opportunity for other teams,” Thomas said.
“Yeah, for sure, it opens up a lot,” Fultz agreed.
Even some teams in the Western Conference acknowledged their new member.
"I was surprised because I thought he was going to stay in the East." — Dennis Smith Jr. on Lebron joining the @Lakers
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) September 21, 2018
Of course, James’ Lakers team will have their hands full competing in what many consider to be the superior conference. Last season, the Nuggets missed the playoffs at 46-36. This year, the competition only figures to be tougher.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard told The Athletic’s Sam Amick that the move might be tougher for James, too, not just other teams.
“So I’m sure [the Lakers will] figure it out,” Lillard said. “It’s just a matter of how fast can they figure it out because in the West it” not like the Eastern Conference. If you fall behind in the West, that can be bad. It’s a little tougher, so I think that’s the question.”
Even if the Lakers aren’t gaining attention for the right reasons, Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said it will make his life easier.
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala says LeBron James' arrival to the Lakers has taken down the champion's spotlight and pressure as lots of eyes are now elsewhere.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) September 24, 2018
Most in the NBA expect the Lakers to make the playoffs, even if they might not have a clear road to the Finals as James’ Cavs teams did.
However, former Cavs forward Richard Jefferson told The New York Times’ Marc Stein that people might be underestimating just how good James can make the Lakers.
“When he went back to Cleveland, I promise you he didn’t go there thinking, ‘OK, it’s time to go to four straight NBA finals,'” Jefferson told Stein. “But would anyone really be surprised if the Lakers made the conference finals? He’s that good. Any time LeBron steps on the court, he’s the best player on the court. There’s a bigger gap than I think many people would really believe.”
It’s a testament to James’ power that virtually the entire league can shift based on which team he plays for.
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