November 14, 2018

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LeBron James and the Lakers are 0-3, and the Doubters Are Emerging

LeBron James and the Lakers are 0-3, and the Doubters Are Emerging
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The Los Angeles Lakers had rallied from 8 points down with a minute left on Monday night. Now leading by 1 in overtime, their new superstar LeBron James stepped up to the free throw line to try to add to his 32 points.

He missed both shots.

The Spurs scored to take the lead, but James had one more chance to win it.

His 22-foot step back jumper missed. The Lakers fell to 0-3.

This is not how the season was supposed to go. The Lakers won the sweepstakes for the greatest player of his era. They added JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo. Expectations were high that they would significantly improve on their mediocre 35-win season.

But the Lakers opened up with a loss to the Trailblazers, then lost again at home to the Rockets, who are 0-2 in their other games so far. That game included a brawl that led to the suspension of Rondo and Brandon Ingram and included a spitting incident by Rondo.

In James’s favor, he did tie the score with a 3-pointer with three seconds late in regulation. And the first three games on the Lakers schedule were tough: Next up are the Suns. And the season is long.

After the Spurs defeat, James said of his younger teammates, “They should be able to play the whole game and overtime, and double and triple and not get tired.”

But he also told The Associated Press: “It’s a process. I get it, and we’ll be fine. I didn’t come here thinking we were going to be blazing, storming right out of the gate.”

It’s only three games into the season, but the Lakers have a number of disquieting stats. Their 3-point shooting is .287, 28th out of 30 teams. James is shooting 16 percent from 3-point range.

Although their offense is above average, they are giving up 118.3 points per 100 possessions, ranked 26th in defense.

James’s missed free throws at the end of the Spurs game drew scrutiny. ESPN reported that in the final 15 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in a one-score game, James is 10 for 21 on free throws since the start of last season, the worst figure of any player with 10 attempts.

James was also faulted for not driving when he had a chance for the winning bucket a few seconds later and settling instead for a long 2. Especially because, as James himself said, fouls were being called quite tightly — “With the new rule changes, you literally can’t touch anybody.” It seemed like James had a high chance of drawing a foul with a drive. Was he actually concerned about another trip to the line?

James has started slowly when changing teams in the past: His superteam in Miami started out 9-8 in 2010; in his return to Cleveland he started 5-7.

Going into the season, most fans thought that James’s streak of eight straight N.B.A. finals was clearly in jeopardy now that he was playing in the stacked Western Conference with a new team. Many predicted the Lakers would perhaps win only a round or two of the playoffs. But at this point, there are signs the season might be a lot worse than that.





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