CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -It's an exhausting, exhilarating, wonderful experience. Playing alongside LeBron James. Coaching LeBron James. Covering LeBron James. And I'm sure, rooting for LeBron James.
Cavalier fans know this, of course, having been through the many ups and occasional downs of cheering for the best basketball player on the planet, a player who elevates those around him but also drains emotions along the way, and certainly puts himself first.
Now the Lakers, players and fans alike, are finding this out firsthand. James returned to the lineup recently after missing 17 straight games with a groin injury, hoping to keep a mediocre Lakers team in the playoff race even as rumors swirled that LeBron was leaning on management to once again shake his team up.
It's an annual reality, that LeBron is going to try to tweak his team to put it in the best possible position to win. And it worked here in Cleveland, where the Cavs went through a coaching change that led to their only title, and other shakeups that eventually fell short. But eight straight trips to the NBA Finals speaks for itself. He knows who and what he wants.
He also knows the toll it takes on his teammates. Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, and Rajon Rondo were all mentioned in trade talks for Anthony Davis.
In the end, the Lakers didn't get Davis. Not midseason, anyway. It'll be interesting to see how LeBron and his teammates move forward. They lost by 42 to the Pacers on Tuesday, the worst loss of LeBron's career, during which James was seen sitting alone at the end of the Lakers bench, a few seats separating him from his teammates.
LeBron always sits at the end of the bench, and players were subbing in and out, but...at the very least, it was symbolic of the apparent fracture on this Lakers team at the moment, and certainly stirred up social media.
Ah, social media. Another exhausting reality of life with LeBron.
Two nights after the Pacers blowout, LeBron and the Lakers bounced back with a thrilling last-second win over the Celtics in Boston.
It was all hearts and flowers after that, LeBron hugging Rondo, who made the last-second shot, and the Lakers feeling like a team again. But can that feeling last?
This isn’t revisionist history. It’s doubtful any members of the 2016 Cavaliers championship team would change a thing, and maybe not even the members of the other Finals teams. And certainly few fans would go back in time and choose a different leader.
But it's an emotionally taxing endeavor, one that the Lakers and their fans are experiencing right now.
Can they come through it, and actually make a push in the West? With the Warriors just up the coast?
A ninth straight Finals run, coming out of that conference, is highly unlikely. But this much we know: it’ll be dramatic and newsworthy every step of the way.