Lakers News: LeBron's Patience Level, Tyson Chandler's Decision and MoreNovember 14, 2018
The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers might be good, subpar or—more than likely—somewhere in between.
But the LeBron James-led Purple and Gold are nothing if not interesting.
Win or lose, this group is predictably filling most news cycles with dynamic personalities, changing parts in the rotation and all the realities of playing under intense media scrutiny.
Let's dive into the latest below.
LeBron James 'Almost Cracked'
While the success of James' L.A. tenure won't be defined before the postseason, but he's already encountered adversity he hasn't faced in years.
The club's 0-3 start was his first since 2004-05. He's without a reigning All-Star teammate for the first time since 2008-09.
No matter how mentally prepared he felt for this situation, it's still a challenge adapting to his new environment. He's been to the Finals each of the last eight seasons. If the playoffs started today, he wouldn't even be participating.
"I almost cracked [last week]," James told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "I had to sit back and remind myself, '[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into.' This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient."
Patience has probably been easier to find of late, as the Lakers have won three straight games and five of their last six.
That said, further turbulence is unavoidable.
He's starting alongside a 23-year-old (Kyle Kuzma) and two 21-year-olds (Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball). He's part of a franchise that hasn't sniffed the playoffs since 2013 and playing for a coach with a career record of 68-109 (Luke Walton). For the first time in James' career, he shares a conference with the Golden State Warriors and all the other formidable forces out West.
This challenge is massive. But James seems mentally prepared for it, despite that close call with his breaking point.
"I had to regroup and remember this is a young team," James told Haynes. "We're playing some good ball right now and we're starting to build some good habits. "That's all that matters right now."
Tyson Chandler Chose Lakers Over Warriors
With one trip to the waiver wire, Tyson Chandler went from being overpaid to highly coveted.
Once separated from his $13.6 million salary, the former Defensive Player of the Year became a clearance-priced source of experience, leadership and interior toughness. Even in today's pace-and-space league, there's a spot for someone with his combination of size and skill.
So, it's not surprising to hear the 36-year-old wasn't short on suitors once he reached the open market. But you might do a little eyebrow raising after hearing the team Chandler selected the Lakers over:
Chandler, of course, is a California native who played his high school ball in Compton, so the aspect of coming home held obvious appeal. And then there's a little part about being able to play alongside James, the greatest player of this generation and perhaps all time.
But still, the Golden State Warriors' allure had to be significant. They've won three titles in four seasons and might have their most talented roster yet. They also could've used more size and experience in the middle, particularly with DeMarcus Cousins continuing to work his way back from a ruptured Achilles.
Nevertheless, Chandler chose the Lakers, and they should be thrilled he did. His first three outings—all Lakers' wins—featured 25 rebounds and four rejections, one of the rare game-saving variety.
"You see a lot of game-winning shots. You see a lot of game-winning assists," James said after Sunday's win. "But for you to see a game-winning defensive block like that, you don't see that much in our league."
Luke Walton Explains Lonzo Ball's Declining Minutes
Lately, Lonzo Ball hasn't had the role his starting designation would suggest. He's averaging just 21.9 minutes through five November outings. To give that figure more context, he logged 34.2 per night as a rookie last season.
The biggest cuts for Ball seem to be coming in the most critical moments. In November, he's 12th on the team with only nine fourth-quarter minutes, and he's played just a single minute in the clutch—final five minutes, scoring margin of five points or fewer—over that stretch. Rajon Rondo has the team lead in November fourth-quarter minutes at 43, while James and Ingram share the top spot in clutch minutes with 11.
Silver Screen and Roll's Christian Rivas relayed Walton's explanation for Ball's playing time:
"I've said it the whole season, it's whoever I feel like is rolling on a certain night. He's finished games where he's been out there and knocking down shots and flying around and rebounding. It's not a punishment that he hasn't finished the last few games.
"[Rajon] Rondo is a very, very good basketball player, and he's a vet that's won a championship and knows how to close games out. So some of it is leaning on that. Especially with trying to climb our way back to .500. It's nothing off on Lonzo, it's just us trying to play who I feel most confidently will finish a game for us."
In 2017, Ball was dubbed the new face of the franchise. Less than 18 months later, he's now no longer a lock for 20 minutes per game and not someone the coach trusts in big spots? That's a bit troubling, especially when coupled with Ball's ongoing shooting woes (.324/.263/.750 slash this month).
While a five-game blip won't define Ball's career, this is a plot twist worth watching.
Statistics used courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com