The Los Angeles Lakers dropped the first game of the 2023-24 season to the Denver Nuggets in a game that looked very similar to the Western Conference Finals sweep five months ago. It was a competitive game for the most part but the Nuggets were able to execute in crunch time at a much more effective rate.
There are 81 more games to play so Lakers fans cannot panic but there were some distinct takeaways from this game. Darvin Ham’s controversial decision to not play Max Christie had many fans up in arms, and his decision to limit LeBron James’ playing time seemingly went against his star’s wishes.
LeBron doesn’t want to just play more, he already is questioning how the coaching staff is using him in this new-look rotation. Mic’d-up audio from Opening Night has been trickling out and there is one somewhat concerning clip where LeBron had to remind his own coaching staff that he could also play point guard.
LeBron James clearly seems fed up with the Lakers coaching staff
We are only one game into the season so there is plenty of time for the Lakers to adjust what they are doing but it is never a good look when the star player has to go to the coaching staff and essentially petition to initiate the offense more.
It is an even worse look when that player is LeBron James, who has more basketball IQ than anyone else in that building, including both coaching staffs and Nikola Jokic (although he is a close second).
LeBron did not initiate much offense in the season opener against the Nuggets and was used more as an off-ball threat. As LeBron himself put it, he was “floating” out on the court a lot, which is not how LeBron should be used.
The Lakers’ coaching staff is obviously trying to preserve LeBron and handle him with kid gloves, which is definitely understandable and justified considering he is in his 21st season in the league. While that is the best thing for the team long-term, there has to be a better connection between the coaching staff and LeBron about how much he is playing and what his role is. There should not be this kind of disconnect after just one game of an 82-game season.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how Ham handles LeBron throughout the rest of the season. Additionally, it will be even more compelling to see how this impacts D’Angelo Russell, who had most of the point guard duties on Tuesday and didn’t necessarily turn in a great game in his team-leading 36 minutes played.