After five seasons of developing the young core, the focus has shifted to building championship habits with the arrival of LeBron James.
During stretches of the 2018-19 NBA preseason, James and the Lakers showed their potential of who they can become, but patience will be required for the team to evolve into a more polished product.
Along with adjusting to James’ play style, the young core is learning how to play with seven other new players.
With Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball all in their second or third seasons, head coach Luke Walton believes they have responded well so far to the pressure and expectations of playing with James.
“They seem to love that,” Walton said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be crazy.’ It’s like, ‘This is awesome. This is how we want to play. This is what we’re about.’ I think that’s why we’ve been so high on the young core we have. They love the game of basketball and they want to win. I think they see the additions we added to the team this summer and how that helps our chances, and they’re excited.”
As the young Lakers respect the best player in the game today, they recognize the importance of doing their part on the court. “You don’t want them to be in awe,” Walton said.
“I mean, obviously we all respect that he’s one of the greatest players our game has ever had. But as teammates and peers, you want guys that are going to be out there to make plays next to him. Not just throw him the ball and hope that he gets it done. There’s definitely a respect that you see. When he’s talking in practice, they’re listening. He’s leading the team with the way that he’s practicing, the way that he’s communicating. They all follow his lead.”
While James could have signed with the Houston Rockets or Philadelphia 76ers, he not only liked the challenge of ending the Lakers’ five-year playoff drought but their collection of young talent
During the 2017-18 season, the young core led the team to more than 30 games for the first time since the Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard era, despite key injuries. As they showed their competitiveness and work ethic during the offseason, Los Angeles is once again a free agency destination thanks to them.
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