The start of training camp is often the time for hope and big dreams, as every team starts with the same record and can begin to carve its own destiny as they gear for the regular season. LeBron James has taken that same approach, committed to work along with a cast of young players and several additions in one-year deals, but it’d be tough to say if he will remain this patient if the Los Angeles Lakers can’t win at his preferred pace.
James has tried to keep the expectations low, not only for the fans, but for himself as well, knowing this will be a process. When he first returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, the King wrote in his July letter in Sports Illustrated: “Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach.”
It didn’t take long for David Blatt to be in murky waters, lasting only a season-and-a-half, as James demanded more shooters and playmakers to surround him with. James has the playmakers around this time, but likely not enough play finishers to compete in a ruthless Western Conference, faced against a murderer’s row of title contenders.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who has covered James his entire career, pointed out this very sentiment — knowing LeBron James could quickly lose patience and demand results once it escapes his control.
“For those who really know James, one issue is this: The way James feels about his situation in July is often different than the way he feels in December,” wrote Windhorst. “This has played out over and over in his career as teammates, coaches and friends can verify. His nature sometimes makes it hard for him to accept anything else than excellence, especially when it’s outside his control.”
James will be heading into a similar situation, with young players that have yet to develop that rabid competitiveness that he often plays with. Before James arrived, it was customary to see Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma trading barbs in social media as opposed to putting work in the gym.
Those things can change over time, but how quickly it’s yet to be known. If the Lakers fall below the King’s expectations, it’s highly unlikely he’ll exhibit that same patience by the mid-season.