SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers are riding high on a three-game winning streak, the longest such mark for the franchise this season.
Two of those victories have gone down to the wire, perhaps a sign of maturation for one of the youngest teams in the league.
During the streak, LeBron James — who admittedly struggles at times with patience — was asked if he’s been tinkering with his leadership approach, and the 14-time All-Star revealed that he was indeed tested during the team’s early struggles.
“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”
Two weeks ago, James raised eyebrows after a four-point loss on the road to Minnesota, saying, “You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out. I’m serious.”
Before the current streak, Los Angeles had dropped three of five, capping the stretch with its worst loss of the season at home to the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 4.
The Eastern Conference power was without Kawhi Leonard, but led by 31 points before hitting the 10-minute mark of the first quarter and eventually won 121-107.
It was the same night president of basketball operations Magic Johnson spoke to reporters and said coach Luke Walton’s job was secure following news of a heated exchange in an Oct. 30 meeting with the young coach in which Johnson challenged Walton to establish a consistent style of play.
Since then, the team has responded by going 5-1.
The three-game winning streak also coincides with the arrival of veteran big man Tyson Chandler, who was bought out of his contract with the rebuilding Phoenix Suns.
On Sunday night with the Lakers up one against the Atlanta Hawks, Chandler came up huge with a game-saving block of rookie Trae Young’s floater attempt at the buzzer, sealing the victory at Staples Center.
Immediately after the block, James, Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee rushed Chandler and began punching his chest in celebration.
James then wrapped Chandler in a bear hug.
“He’s huge,” James said about Chandler’s presence after the victory. “We knew we had a spot that needed some reassurance, and for us to get Tyson in the fashion that we got him and to be able to implement him right away and the impact that he’s made in these three games thus far, it’s great.”
“He’s been big,” Walton said of Chandler. “Not only the way he is on court, but the way he talks in the huddles. We’re very happy to have him.”
There are surely to be more bumps in the road for James and the Lakers, but he’s continuing to emphasize — to himself and teammates — that the journey to becoming formidable is going to take some time.
“I had to regroup and remember this is a young team,” James told Yahoo Sports. “We’re playing some good ball right now and we’re starting to build some good habits. That’s all that matters right now.”
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