The Los Angeles Lakers won the biggest prize of the 2018 NBA free agency when they succeeded to acquire the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James. However, the Lakers earned plenty of criticisms when they decided to sign LeBron’s mortal enemy, Lance Stephenson. In their years of playing against each other, James and Stephenson built one of the strangest and most entertaining rivalries in the NBA history.
Whenever they see each other on the court, Lance Stephenson frequently does something that irritates LeBron James which makes him lose his focus on the game. The most memorable thing he did was when he blew into James’ ears during the Eastern Conference Playoffs. With their unpleasant history, most people have doubt how James and Stephenson can work together in one team.
However, past is past. When the Lakers officially signed Lance Stephenson, it was revealed that Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka properly consulted LeBron James with their controversial decision. According to a previous Inquisitr article, James was “very interested” in teaming up with Stephenson.
The acquisition of Lance Stephenson is expected to ease the load on James’ shoulders in terms of playmaking, but the veteran shooting guard knows he needs to do more than that to be more useful to LeBron. In a recent interview with Scott Agness of The Athletic (h/t SB Nation‘s Silver Screen And Roll), basketball skills trainer Rob Blackwell revealed that Stephenson’s No. 1 priority this offseason is to improve his shooting.
“His shot is sound. I just don’t think it’s his first option,” Blackwell said. “So what we did was try to make him focus on the shot being his first option. His first option has been to put the ball on the floor and take his guy. That’s always his first option. He passes up so many wide-open shots as we went through video. We felt like he’s going to get a lot of spot-up opportunities playing with LeBron and playing with those guys who stretch the floor and rely on him to be able to catch-and-shoot and knock down shots, as well as be a tough defender.”
Despite having a plethora of playmakers, LeBron James is expected to do all the ball-handling duties when the real battle begins in the Western Conference Playoffs. As Blackwell noted, sharing the court with James will create more open shots for Lance Stephenson which is why it is very important for him to be a more active and accurate shooter in the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season.
If Stephenson succeeds to improve his shooting, he will undeniably be a huge help with the Lakers’ goal to fully dominate the deep Western Conference next season. Stephenson could be tasked to guard and irritate the opposing team’s best player while being a huge threat from beyond the arc.