- LeBron James’ first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was a disaster.
- According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James’ frustrations prompted a players-only meeting, during which his teammates called him out for poor body language throughout a tough stretch of games.
- While James reportedly responded well to the criticism, the Lakers still couldn’t turn things around and will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
LeBron James’ first season with the Los Angeles Lakers did not go according to plan.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James’ teammates even went as far as to call a team meeting to effectively call out the superstar for his body language during games.
The meeting came after a brutal stretch in February that began with an embarrassing 136-94 loss to the Indiana Pacers. During the game, James was pictured sitting at the end of the Lakers bench, far from his teammates. And with the trade deadline just days away, Lakers guard Brandon Ingram was met with chants of “LeBron’s gonna trade you” while shooting free throws at the start of the game.
From there, things went from bad to worse. After a bounce-back win in Boston that made it appear as though the season might turn around, the Lakers dropped three of their next four games, capped by a 128-115 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, with whom the potential Anthony Davis deal had fallen through.
After the game, James openly questioned whether his teammates had the experience and poise to get to the postseason. According to McMenamin, this prompted a players-only meeting, organised by Rajon Rondo, at which players held an “air-it-out” session with LeBron.
“The meeting in Memphis was a retort of sorts. In what became an open forum, several players spoke up. Players focused on James’ inconsistent body language throughout the year. The four-time MVP copped to the critique, telling his teammates that, in essence, cutting out behaviour like slumped shoulders and sideways glances has been something he has tried to work on his entire career.”
McMenamin said it appeared that James took the critiques to heart, as he showed a bit more focus on lifting teammates, staying engaged and putting his arms around other players during timeouts. But despite the good meeting, the Lakers would fall short, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies to start a 1-6 stretch that would effectively end their season.
While the Lakers’ ill-fated season was certainly a death by 1,000 cuts, James’ frustrations played a role.
After a stop-and-go first half of the season left the team with a record of 20-14 at Christmas, an injury pulled James from the Lakers starting lineup through most of January, during which Los Angeles went a disappointing 6-11 in his absence.
Upon his return, James was still expected by most to be able to carry the Lakers to their first postseason appearance in five years. With the promise of Davis joining the team before the trade deadline, there was a sense that James, who had made eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, would find a way.
Instead, the pieces never came together on the Davis trade, and the fallout of the failed deal left Los Angeles looking like a dysfunctional mess at the most important moment of their year.
James still has years left with the Lakers, and one big move in the 2019 offseason could make this painful year feel like a distant memory should things break the right way for Los Angeles during the same stretch in 2020. But from the sounds of it, no one was happy with the Lakers’ season this year, and the offseason will be a welcome respite for all involved.
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