The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t having the season that many expected them to when they signed LeBron James to a four-year contract last July. There were expected growing pains with a weird roster construction around James and the young guys on the roster, but no one expected this team to be on the verge of a Top-10 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
Injuries have plagued the team all season long: James went down with a groin injury on Christmas, Lonzo Ball has missed a large chunk of the year, and Brandon Ingram has been shut down as well.
Some of their problems can be considered bad luck, others on the front office, but after the Lakers’ loss to the New York Knicks, the team is now below 0.500 on the season in games that James has appeared in—so The King does deserve some of the blame for the Lakers troubles, too.
However, Knicks color commentator Walt Frazier went as far as to say that James doesn’t care when watching him at the end of the bench during a timeout.
“This type of behavior is not—when you’re the face of the NBA, I think you should be more a part of your team no matter what is going on,” Frazier said. “In the public, you have to be a part of the team. In the lockerroom, you’re not, but you have to exude that type of togetherness in public, folks. And right now, we see that he doesn’t really care. That’s why [Luke Walton] is rumored that this is his last season as the Lakers coach.”
Whether Frazier’s comments are fair or not isn’t the point. In the age of social media where just about everything is captured on film, the optics oftentimes drive narrative more than intent. James has been sitting at the end of the bench for years, but when it happens on a team that’s playing for lottery positioning instead of playoff seeding, it comes off a bit different.
However, former teammate and coach Damon Jones said that any talk about James not caring about his teammates should be thrown out the window considering he went to dinner with James after the Knicks game, and James brought six of his teammates with him.
“If he’s not a good teammate, if he’s not a good leader, he wouldn’t be hanging with these guys off the floor in New York City,” said Jones on “Get Up.”
Fraizer was speaking only on what he saw, and what he saw didn’t look good no matter how you want to twist the narrative. However, just because the optics were bad, it doesn’t mean that James is actually any of the things Fraizer believed to be true because of inactivity during a timeout. Both can be true.