Lakers News: Is LeBron James Failing To Lead His Team?

No one is really leading this team, to be fair.

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star small/power forward LeBron James has generally been praised for his leadership and team-friendly game. He’s one of the league’s all-time most prolific passers (currently ranked seventh, he should pass Lakers Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson at some point this season) and, with a few notable exceptions, a generally beloved teammate.

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But he sure seems pretty publicly miffed about his current compatriots, especially the fact that, well, they can’t shoot.

On the latest episode of their excellent podcast The Mismatch, The Ringer’s Chris Vernon and Kevin O’Connor discussed how James’s current leadership approach appears to be leaving this reeling 0-2 Lakers squad wanting.

“I know it is never acceptable to criticize LeBron James [because] LeBron James is gonna get points no matter what game he plays in, but have a little interest in being a leader and holding everybody accountable. I mean that’s what we want from our best players, is to hold guys accountable,” Vernon said. “Whatever hand you are dealt, those are the guys you’re going to war with.”

The duo also goes on to (accurately) criticize the long-term extension of team vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who it seems has outfitted James and Anthony Davis with role players who are anything but complimentary to their games in two consecutive offseasons. “Rob Pelinka’s contract extension is the most outrageous move of the [2022] offseason,” posited Vernon. “You watch them and you go, ‘What were you thinking… putting this team together?’ Because this is a mess.”

Vernon reiterates (again accurately) that the initial trade of their depth for Russell Westbrook hurt the team, which objectively is pretty fair, given that the team dropped from a 42-30 2020-21 season record to a 33-49 record in 2021-22. “The trade was stupid when it first happened and we all said it was stupid. Anybody that thought LeBron James and Russell Westbrook was a good fit and doesn’t understand how to build a team when you’ve got LeBron James as your centerpiece is foolishness at best… At what point do I start to criticize the people who allowed this to happen?” 

They also (in another very accurate comment) noted that this 2022-23 Lakers team’s general vibe and body language seem fairly tepid and unenthused about the prospect of collaborating on the hardwood together. They also voice their pessimism that L.A. can survive its intense early season schedule with a decent record, projecting that the team might win just 5-6 of its next 16 games.

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