LeBron James returned to Cleveland once again Wednesday and everyone was on pins and needles to see how he would be received.
OK, not really.
Everyone kind of knew how that would go, but now we can tell you exactly what happened in the Lakers 109-105 win over the Cavaliers.
Here’s what we learned from James’ return to Cleveland:
Cleveland holds few grudges with this decision
It was widely documented that Cleveland was not a fan of James’ exit in 2010. Fans burned his old Cavaliers jerseys and the team’s owner penned a letter vilifying James’ decision.
That was not the case this time, though.
There were few boos, if any, when James was introduced and there was a heartfelt tribute played during a timeout in the first quarter which really did do his time in Cleveland justice.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) November 22, 2018
Cleveland may not be happy that James left, but it’s pretty clear the city understood why he went to Los Angeles. Plus, a championship goes a long way in helping people accept a departure of a player the caliber of James.
The Lakers have work to do
While 17 games is a very small sample size, it is clear the idea saying James could join any team and make it a contender may be a bit far fetched.
James is undoubtedly the best player in the game and he can win any game he wants when he wants to, but he does not have even close to the kind of help he needs to win the Western Conference.
Los Angeles still struggles to shoot and really had problems in the first half shooting less than 30 percent from beyond the arc (4 of 14). The Lakers are 11th in 3-point shooting percentage and tied for 15th in 3-pointers made per game. Those numbers simply won’t work for a James-led team in the long run.
Beyond that, while guys like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart are all talented, they may never be that second fiddle James really needs. Los Angeles has to get a big free agent this offseason, or make a huge trade at the deadline to make this team a contender — and the Lakers should know that was how it would be, it’s just something that cannot be forgotten as James’ career in Los Angeles develops.
Collin Sexton isn’t Kyrie Irving
No one is confusing Collin Sextion with Kyrie Irving, let’s be clear about that.
Other than their handles and explosiveness, there really isn’t that much of a comparison to draw between the two players. Here’s the point though, while Irving was a higher pick and had a ways to go before he was an All-Star-level player, he didn’t have as far to go was Sexton.
Sexton is so much fun to watch as he competes and is a very good defender, but his shot needs work and he is a long way from being able to take over a game like his skill set could allow. And, while it took James a Cleveland team with Irving to truly become good, Irving may have been on the cusp of making the Cavaliers a playoff team virtually on his own.
Unless Sexton becomes a better shooter really quickly, that is going to be very tough for him to do.
The Cavaliers will have to draft very well in the coming years to get him the necessary help — that means not passing on a Giannis Antetokounmpo in favor of Anthony Bennett. Koby Altman has a challenge in the next couple of seasons and we’ll see if he can get the job done.
Sexton was a good start.