As the losses mounted, so did the criticisms of James: that he appeared detached from his teammates, that basketball was secondary to his growing interest in his entertainment company, that his body was finally breaking down after so many years of athletic genius, that he was no longer capable of carrying a team to a title.
But in the 55 games that James did play in this season, he was pretty good. He averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists a game while shooting 51 percent from the field. Besides, a long summer may benefit him after so many extended playoff runs.
“The only thing that was hard was that he got hurt,” Walton said late Tuesday night. “It takes time to build a relationship with somebody. But as our relationship grew and I got to see what it was like coaching him, it was great. And I believe if we could have stayed healthy, we would have had a very successful season. He’s an incredible player.”
For his part, James told Spectrum SportsNet that he wanted to use the summer to get his body back to “120 percent” ahead of training camp — even as he moonlights on the set of “Space Jam 2.” He has been adamant that his work in entertainment will not interfere with his work on the basketball court.
The question is whether one bad season will become two. So much hinges on the summer as the Lakers look to add another star to their roster. (Emrani said he had plans for more billboards, though he declined to say which top-tier free agents he would target.) James has said that he will be as involved in the team’s recruiting efforts as possible.
“I’m looking forward to seeing who jumps in the car with me and wants to take this ride to the top,” James said in his interview with Spectrum SportsNet. “I know what I bring to the game. I know my commitment to the game. I’ve never cheated the game, and throughout my career, it’s always given back to me.”
Back in Venice Beach, Never painted a new mural during the middle of the N.F.L. season, replacing LeBron James with Derwin James, a safety for the Los Angeles Chargers. The mural has been up for months, Never said, and no one has touched it.