There are few people that are better positioned to comment both on the young core of the Los Angeles Lakers, and playing with LeBron James than Channing Frye.
Frye is back with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season after being traded to the Lakers at last year’s deadline. He of course won a title playing alongside LeBron back in 2016 and had some advice for his former teammates in LA.
In a question and answer with Erik Garcia Gunderson of LeBronWire, Frye explained that he believes the Lakers are arguably the most talented team in the NBA. However, he also mentioned that the team will be in for a reality check:
I think the thing they’re going to come to and I think a lot of guys are going to have to deal with this: There’s who you expect to be and then who you are when you play with LeBron. It’s two different things. I don’t know if they truly understand what it’s like to play with him because there is no room for mistakes. Because in all actuality, he could do it himself. He could lead a team to 40 wins by himself. I think for all of them they’re going to have to have a reality check, not only them but the people around them. There’s going to say, not a growing period, but a humility.
The Lakers last year they really established how they were going to play. We’re going to play fast, we’re going to play together, we’re going to play defense. But now you’ve got LeBron, you’ve got Rondo, you’ve got all these guys. People are like yo, we’re trying to beat the shit out of you guys now. Everybody. It’s not like let’s go party in LA now. It’s, ‘lets stay in and get some sleep.’ Because think about it, every team that beats the Lakers now is going to be on ESPN regardless of how good they are. If you have a good game against the Lakers you’re going to be on ESPN for the next two days, the hottest news, every game.
So get ready for that. Get ready for all that attention that comes with LeBron and all the responsibility. Get ready to try and deal with getting popular, getting invited to everything. If you have one million followers get ready to have two. If you have two get ready to have four. Get ready to get invited to literally everything in LA because you’re now the hottest ticket in LA. Find that medium.
The insights that Frye provided in his answer gives us a glimpse into the what it’s like to play with LeBron. While he can help you succeed on the floor, it comes with both his own expectations and the scrutiny of the NBA media.
We’ve seen some players excel under those conditions, while others fall apart (looking at you Rodney Hood). To assume that everybody will instantly adjust to playing with LeBron and improve as a result of his presence is short-sighted.
One of the more comical aspects of this is Frye’s acknowledgement that teams didn’t take the Lakers seriously last season and occasionally showed up on game day hungover. While that’s not something Lakers fans are eager to acknowledge, it’ll be interesting to see how the young players adjust to the opposition taking them seriously.
The other interesting side of these comments is how the departure of LeBron will impact the Cavs in the locker room next season. The ceiling of the team has plummeted without him and a leadership vacuum has been created.
That hole will likely be filled by Kevin Love and other veterans like Frye. They will need to navigate the changing climate surrounding the team and find smaller goals all season to keep the team motivated.
Part of what makes Frye so well equipped to discuss the effects of playing with LeBron is that he was uniting force within the locker room. He saw the benefits of playing with LeBron, and helped keep things together when players were frustrated with him.
How the Lakers handle expectations and how the Cavs handle the absence of expectations will be some of the more interesting subplots of this season. With LeBron’s decision to head to L.A. both franchises will inevitably be linked and compared throughout the coming year.