LOS ANGELES – LeBron James is trying to keep his composure, knowing cameras are surveying his every move to see if he’s losing patience with this young Los Angeles Lakers squad that is winless after three games.
James acknowledged to Yahoo Sports after Monday night’s 143-142 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs that he’s teaching and directing on the court more than he’s had to do in years past.
The 6-foot-8 forward equated the situation to a scene from “The Godfather.” He quoted a line from Don Vito Corleone in which he told his son, Michael, that he wanted better for him in an attempt to discourage him from joining the family business.
James is essentially saying he wants his young guys to be better and suggests some losses will occur in the short term in order to establish a foundation to build a winning culture that’s sustainable.
“It’s all about the end game,” James told Yahoo Sports. “I want what’s best for this team and it takes going through some ups and downs. I know what I signed for. This was all expected. I’m up for the task.”
But this was a game the Lakers should have secured in their favor. They had a six-point lead with 55 seconds remaining in overtime, but went scoreless the rest of the way while the Spurs capped off a 7-0 run to steal the win on the road.
“It’s not tough,” James said. “… It’s a process. I get it. We’ll be fine. I didn’t come here thinking we were going to be blazing storms right out the gate. I’m frustrated I didn’t get the win, but I’ve showered and I’m good now.”
On Monday night, the city of Los Angeles endured the peerless heroics and the shortcomings James has displayed throughout his 16-year NBA career. The sold-out Staples Center crowd collectively erupted in exultation, and then minutes later there was silence and disappointment.
James played a massive part in forcing OT but also contributed heavily to the Lakers’ demise.
The four-time MVP was inadvertently poked in the right eye by San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes with 13 seconds left. After Forbes’ 3-point attempt clanked off the iron, James received the ball and casually moseyed up the court.
Rudy Gay had the defensive assignment. He backpedaled, but was caught off guard when James stopped a few feet from the top of the key to pull up for a deep trey.
Gay challenged the shot, but James nailed it. All Gay could do was stare at James in disbelief. It was the first overtime period for both teams this season.
“Once I step in the gym, my vision is clear,” James quipped about being poked in the eye before the shot. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to make them all the time, but my vision is good.”
Not much after that went right.
Up one with 12.8 seconds left in OT, James was sent to the line and missed two huge free throws, setting up Patty Mills for a successful curling jump-shot that gave the Spurs a one-point advantage with seven seconds remaining.
James called his two charity-stripe blunders “unacceptable,” but he had one more opportunity to will his team to victory. He received the inbound pass, sized up Gay with the dribble and took a left-wing, step-back jumper that hit the right side of the rim.
Like that, the game was over.
“I got to the spot I wanted,” James said. “It just didn’t go in.”
The Spurs had a 38-26 advantage in free-throw attempts, and Lakers coach Luke Walton will likely be fined for his colorful remarks regarding the discrepancy.
“Once again [a team] outshoots us from the free-throw line,” he said. “Watch the play that I got a technical foul on. Watch what happened to LeBron James’ arm. It’s the same thing that James Harden and Chris Paul shot 30 free throws on us the night before. Then LeBron’s pull-up on a screen, and somebody tries to fight over it. It’s the same thing [other teams] shoot free throws on. The same thing. We’re scoring 30 points a night in the paint. Watch how Josh Hart plays this game. He played 40 minutes tonight. All he does is attack the rim. Zero free throws tonight. I know they’re young. I get that. But if we’re going to play a certain way, let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession.”
Regardless of whether Walton has a valid point, two made free throws down the stretch would have put his team in position to get off the schneid. The last time James started a season 0-3 was his rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They won 35 games that year.
Is this a sign of things to come?
“We’re going to continue to get better,” James said. “I like the direction were going in. Obviously, we don’t have too many wins right now, but it’s a long process.”
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