Despite successfully acquiring a legitimate NBA superstar, the Los Angeles Lakers still earned plenty of criticisms with the moves they made in the recent free agency. After acquiring LeBron James, the Lakers signed four role players – JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and Michael Beasley – whose fit with their best player remains a big question.
The most controversial free agent acquisition for the Lakers is Lance Stephenson. The 27-year-old swingman built one of the strangest and most entertaining rivalries in the NBA history with LeBron James. Whenever they see each other on the court, Stephenson always finds a way to irritate James and break his focus in the game. The most memorable thing he did to James was when he blew in his ears during the Eastern Conference Playoffs matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers.
With their unpleasant history, it’s easy to understand why most people are wondering how LeBron James and Lance Stephenson can work together in Los Angeles. However, it was already revealed that James was properly consulted with the Lakers’ decision to sign Stephenson. James didn’t personally recruit Stephenson but in a recent interview with Dana Benbow of the Indianapolis Star, the veteran guard revealed that Lakers President of Basketball Operations told him that LeBron was “very interested” to have him on their team.
“Magic (Johnson) called me and he told me LeBron was interested, very interested in me,” Stephenson said. “As a teammate.”
Despite being criticized for their controversial signings, the Lakers remain confident that the moves they made this offseason will put them in an advantage, especially in their matchup against the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors. As Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said, “to try and play the Warriors at their own game is a trap. No one is going to beat them at their own game.”
Lance Stephenson may not be an accurate three-point shooter, but he could ease the load on LeBron James’ shoulders in terms of playmaking and defense. There are still three weeks before the training camp starts, but Stephenson already has an idea what will be his role on LeBron’s team in the upcoming 2018-2019 NBA season.
“Yeah, he’s probably going to sic me on people,” Stephenson said. “It’ll be fun. It will be a very interesting year, just playing with him and winning games with him.”
If the Lance Stephenson fails to make himself fit as LeBron’s teammate, the Lakers could just let him walk away in the summer of 2019 as an unrestricted free agent. However, if it helps the Lakers win games, NBA fans should expect to see more of Stephenson-James tandem in the next couple of years.