For a while at the start of the NBA season, it looked as if LeBron James’ patience was going to be severely tested. The Los Angeles Lakers lost their first three games, and five of their first seven, enough to heat the seat of head coach Luke Walton and raise the ire of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
The question then was how long could James stand the struggles and teething troubles before pushing internally for significant personnel upgrades, even if it came at the expense of long-term flexibility attracting impact names next summer.
That’s not the question anymore, not after a 16-10 start heading into Monday night that hasn’t always been convincing but provided evidence these Lakers have something about them, namely enough spirit and unpredictability to often overcome what are still too many concentration lapses.
Yet now arises a different conundrum, one that looked unlikely to arise even a few weeks ago. How ambitious should these Lakers be, not for next summer but right now?
Led by James, L.A. won 14 of 19 after its initial troubles, has mostly stayed around the fourth and fifth spot in the Western Conference and is trending heartily in a satisfying direction.
And so, the new question — strengthen now or hold firm?
The thinking always has been that this was a transition year, a period of adaptation while necessary sacrifices were made in order to prepare for next summer and a championship quest the following season. Expectations were thus tempered accordingly.
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