They say age is but a number, you're as young as you feel, and in the case of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Buss family better hope those sayings are true. Since LeBron James and the Lakers failed to make it out of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, the Lakers have been making serious waves in the trade market.
Adding veteran talents such as Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James now has a roster full of talented individuals who are all hungry for championship success. The downside to that is that both LeBron James and the majority of his new teammates are currently in the tenth round of an unwinnable battle against father time.
Let's take a look at the team's current depth chart and the ages of each roster member.
Of course, some recent draft selections won't see a lick of court time unless something catastrophic happens. So, taking the 13 players listed above as the team's core regular-season rotation, the Lakers have an average age of 31 years old.
Usually, a team that old would be ready to hit the reset button, but those teams don't contain LeBron James, nor do they contain so many former All-Stars and future Hall Of Famers.
The question is, can a roster full of aging stars stay healthy enough to withstand the rigors of a full NBA season, and then perform at the required level to go on and win a championship? In a world where the likes of Tom Brady and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are still dominating their respective sports as they enter their forties, you would be inclined to say yes.
But LeBron James, Brady, Ibrahimovic - these are all exceptions to the aging rule, and perhaps you could add Chris Paul and Cristiano Ronaldo to that list as well. The point is, expecting the majority of players to withstand such an intense physical toll on their aging bodies is a recipe for disaster.
I'm 33, when I go to the gym I need a full day of recovery, if I play basketball, I need a full day of recovery, if I go out drinking I need two days recovery - and you're kidding yourself if you don't think these players indulge in a few glasses of wine. Granted, I am far from an elite athlete, but the rules don't change that much from person to person. Most of LeBron James' teammates have not spent the millions of dollars he has to ensure his body remains in prime physical condition.
Are the Los Angeles Lakers still capable of blowing teams out? Sure, are they capable of dominating back-to-back? You bet, but we're talking about isolated instances, without factoring in injuries, travel time, muscle soreness and the like. These players, with the exception of LeBron James, are humans first and basketball players second. Humans need time to recover, and that time increases as you age - it's that simple.
So what happens if Dwight Howard or Trevor Ariza suffer an injury? Will the other aging rotation players be able to shoulder the load while their teammates recover? And while they're operating on increased minutes, can we feel satisfied their bodies won't suffer a similar fate and end up in the treatment room?
LeBron James has finally got the team he's always wanted, it just feels like it's a couple of years too late. Now LeBron James and the Lakers need to navigate a minefield of health, age, and production as they chase another championship together.
Other teams around the league aren't going to feel sorry for them either. If LeBron James or any other member of the Lakers roster is forced to miss time due to injury, their opponents aren't going to take the foot off the gas.
This season, the team could rue losing Alex Caruso, who is always so full of energy and drive.
If we're looking at the Lakers roster construction on paper, then yes, they're sure-fire championship contenders. That's what happens when you pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis together, regardless of LeBron James' age - that's two top five players sharing the court for the same team.
Holistically, things don't seem to add up. Westbrook plays the game at a million miles an hour, snagging rebounds and turning the jets on for an early offense, but who's going to be running the court with him? Are players going to take turns bolting the full length of the floor to offer an outlet? Or are LeBron James and Frank Vogel going to ask Westbrook to shackle that aspect of his game, and thus reduce his effectiveness?
There are so many questions hovering over the heads of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Some of those questions are genuine basketball discussions such as how the roster will fit together, where the spacing is going to come from, or how the team is going to avoid being dead last in pace. Other questions are more biological; how's the team going to sustain itself when inevitable injuries occur, can LeBron James stay healthy for a full season, and is it even possible for the Lakers to place 90% of it's roster on load management?
What about defense? The NBA has suddenly had an influx of highly talented speedsters who can pull up off the dribble at a moment's notice, or use their array of feints to carve defenses to pieces. How on earth do LeBron James and his team of aging stars expect to contain the likes of Ja Morant and De'Aaron Fox?
So many questions! But now isn't the time for answers. The NBA season is still about a month away. Any real answers to how LeBron James and the Lakers roster are going to navigate the inevitable questions the season will throw at them won't begin to surface until January at the earliest.
Until then, all we can do is enjoy the show! Because that's what LeBron James and the Lakers are all about: Hollywood, and Hollywood is timeless, or so they say.
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