During the latter portion of LeBron James' second stint in Cleveland, he'd often complain about the lack of play-making, particularly after Kyrie Irving was dealt to Boston at Irving's request. Left unsaid was just how comfortable James has become as a point-forward who controls the levers of his team's offense. That's where he's comfortable. His summer signing with the Lakers—with a young point guard, Lonzo Ball, and a veteran, Rajon Rondo—was supposed to be a reprieve of sorts from those duties.
But after Rondo went down earlier in the season, it seems James' time running the offense has readjusted to Cleveland levels. That's the exegesis of a recent report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst that reveals James has decided to run the offense without the input of coach Luke Walton.
We'll blockquote the whole paragraph in question so the self-serious ESPN scribe doesn't get more bent out of shape about aggregators.
The scouts also have noticed that when James is running the point, he rarely looks toward the bench to receive playcalls from coach Luke Walton. Even when he has seen them, the scouts say, he ignores them and runs the play he prefers. Walton has adjusted, and now when James is running the show, Walton will typically just let him call the game. This probably shouldn't be considered a slight -- it's just James being James.
Windhorst also pointed out how infrequently LeBron has been posting up so far this season, just 2.0 times per game, compared to 4.4 in his final year with the Cavs. This might not matter considering they're 7-3 through their last 10 and appear a lot more stout on defense after signing Tyson Chandler off waivers (thanks James Jones!). But if the Lakers' youngsters—particularly Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram—are going to improve and act as trade bait for a second superstar to pair with James, they're more likely to do so with the ball in their hands.
Ingram especially seems less dangerous when he stands around as LeBron calls out the play. He's not good a enough long-range shooter to put pressure on defenses without the ball. While Lonzo's shooting has drastically improved, and he's played better with Rondo out, he too could stand to have the ball a bit more.
James is the best player of his generation and maybe of all time, but there are real wrinkles his presence brings to a team that need to be ironed out in order to best utilize his skills. And right now the Lakers are a far cry from a smooth ride into the postseason. Yes, they look better from their zany opening month, and Walton has played James the fewest minutes of his career, something Windhorst noted in his piece. But if they're serious about title contention they'll need to lean more on a secondary ball handler, and post James up more. Until that happens, the Lakers are just a slightly improved supporting cast from last year's dismal Cavs squad, but in the much harder Western Conference.