LeBron James doesn’t have any time to waste. The Los Angeles Lakers star recently turned 39 years old, and is getting near the end of his historically great career. James is still performing at an All-Star level in Year 21, but at this point, each passing season counts as James’ best chance to get championship ring No. 5. If he’s not happy, he’s going to let the whole world know about it.
The Lakers have been middling almost all season after a shocking run to the Western Conference Finals as a No. 7 seed last year. After losing to the struggling Atlanta Hawks, 138-122, on Tuesday night, Los Angeles dropped below .500 (24-25) on the season. If the year ended today, the Lakers would be the No. 9 seed in the West, and would need to win two single-elimination games for the right to play the No. 1 seed in a first round best-of-7 series.
The Lakers sure seem like they’re cooked right now. Of course, the Lakers seemed cooked last season before pulling off a trade deadline miracle that saved their season and put them four wins away from the NBA Finals. Is there another move the Lakers can make to right the ship this year? James sure seems to be pondering exactly that with his post-game remarks after the Hawks loss. James seemed at his wit’s end after the loss:
Then he tweeted this later in the night.
This is, of course, LeBron following the same playbook he seemingly abides by every year. No superstar in NBA history has done a better job of pressuring his team to match his own standard of excellence, and that process usually begins with a passive-aggressive social media post.
Back in 2015 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron sent out this infamous tweet as a thinly-veiled shot at teammate Kevin Love.
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
A couple years later, James posted the meme of Arthur with his fist balled up on Instagram.
Last season, James posted to Instagram with the captain “How long will you be taken for granted.”
LeBron James’ caption on Instagram today after last night’s loss dropped the Lakers to 0-4: “How long will you be taken for granted” pic.twitter.com/34GlAVGg9x
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 27, 2022
The Lakers have some options with the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaching. With a 2029 first round draft pick to trade, LA could target Zach LaVine from the Chicago Bulls or Dejounte Murray from the Atlanta Hawks if they want to take a big swing. Going after Toronto Raptors guard Bruce Brown is another option that could come slightly cheaper.
If that doesn’t work, the Lakers could always fire head coach Darvin Ham, who has been driving Lakers fans to the brink of madness this season.
There really aren’t many more cards left for James to play. The Lakers’ once elite defense has slipped significantly since they won the championship inside the bubble. The offense is losing the math game every night behind the three-point line by being No. 28 in three-point rate. The lineup choices have been curious to say the least. James is still an excellent player at age-39, but he can’t put the team on his back every night for all 82 games and then do the same in the playoffs.
The Lakers have plenty of problems, but no easy solutions. While LA has reportedly rejected the idea of trading for LaVine all year, having another rim pressure threat and knockdown shooter in the lineup sure would seem to help. For now, the Lakers wait. Just don’t count on James to be very patient.