LeBron James is reportedly organizing a mini-camp for the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas. As covered by Basketball News, the move by James resembles a similar initiative leading up to the 2019-2020 season after the team had acquired All-Star Forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. These LeBron James mini-camps aid in building chemistry, an element to the game the Lakers certainly have to work on, considering only five members from their championship team remain on today's roster.
The last time James organized a mini-camp, the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship in the bubble. With chemistry issues, clarity on roles, and the team's advanced age as potential issues for this Laker squad, this seems like the ideal first step for this collection of players if they want to be raising the Larry O'Brien trophy in June. After all, the NBA season is a long process that only gets tougher in the Playoffs. While adaptability is vital, the importance of being aligned to start the season is something that teams with championship aspirations tend to overlook.
As the Lakers prepare for what could be their most pressure-filled season in the LeBron James era, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall to hear some of the discussions at this mini-camp? Assuming the answer to that question is a yes, I took the liberty of putting down my thoughts on what is to be discussed amongst this group of savvy veterans in Las Vegas. Since LeBron and the Lakers have much to sort out, let's stick to the top three topics of the LeBron James Mini Camp.
The division of labor between LeBron James and Russell Westbrook
Most teams would kill to have two triple-double threats on their team, especially when those two are Westbrook and James. LeBron is a basketball savant with supreme decision-making abilities, while Westbrook plays with a pace unlike any other to make plays for himself and his teammates. These two have consistently been among the top assists guys in the league, but now that they are on the same team, who is taking over primary ballhandling responsibilities? I would guess that Westbrook will be running the show, so if that is the case, what is LeBron's prerogative on offense? Does he become a pure scorer or a secondary playmaker off the screen and roll? Will he attack more from the paint or the perimeter? How does this all affect Anthony Davis and his preferences? There will be so many questions to answer on this topic alone and points of view to understand.
The main concept should be that Westbrook runs the show while LeBron is on the bench, helping the Lakers reduce LeBron's minutes (and games played). It still remains to be seen how the two will coexist when on the floor at the same time.
Surviving Hollywood Without Jared Dudley
Living in LA is different, especially when playing for the Lakers. The proximity to Hollywood means everyone looks to step up their off-court game, and for the Lakers, this could be a great source of bonding for the team. The bottom line is, these guys need to stick together and help each other avoid the many distractions LA has to offer. This task might not be as difficult with a veteran-laden roster, but the off-court scene is where the team can make some serious strides toward becoming a cohesive unit.
Is it time for the James family to bring Taco Tuesday back? Did Russ get a big enough house to host this year's Halloween festivities? Much of the Lakers' magic this year will come from how they bond and learn how to genuinely sacrifice for each other; this is what made the 2020 Lakers so dangerous. With Jared Dudley gone, who will help LeBron James be that high-character locker room guy that will help keep things in order. LeBron is the apparent leader of the team, but we all know Westbrook will retire thinking he's one of the five best players in the NBA - that's a dynamic that needs veteran presence acting as a peacekeeping unit.
The quota on Russ' three-point attempts
When speaking of Russell Westbrook, we always hear people in the basketball world say, "You need to let Russ be Russ!" However, Russ' three-point shooting flaws can be extra detrimental to a team like the Lakers, whose star players struggle to hit the three at a high clip. For the Lakers to find a winning formula, they need to look back at their championship team in 2020 which won the title by attacking the paint and making threes when it mattered.
This year's team will have to do the same, as their ability to punish opponents in the paint increases substantially with Russ there. So even when teams dare him to shoot from the outside, he will have to creatively force the action and find ways to get to the rim. This time, the only difference is that he will have Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, and Anthony Davis cleaning up after him, which could lead to the Lakers' success this season.
Once again, a masterstroke by LeBron James in leadership by taking the initiative to organize team-building activities personally. It will be interesting to see if the topics above are discussed and the points of alignment involving said matters. Good chemistry in talented teams almost always breeds a championship contender.
Still, with the many potential challenges the Lakers will face, what will be most interesting to find out is who is going to step up to make the necessary sacrifices to win. Will it be LeBron James, given that he is the elder statesman? Will it be Westbrook because he is the one without a ring? It will be interesting to see what comes out of this Vegas mini-camp and if it can lead the Lakers to this year's championship against a pool of formidable contenders.