Ebs on LeBron James and Decision 3.0

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FROM THE PRESSBOX – It’s sort of poetic that my column is scheduled for Mondays – the day after Decision 3.0.

But I’m still in shock.

Sure, the Los Angeles Lakers became heavy betting favorites to land LeBron James on Saturday, but I still didn’t think he’d really go out West. Because why?

Why go to the Lakers when you have to contend with the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Coach Pop all in the Western Conference playoffs? Honestly, I’m not sure James and Co. make it out of the conference semifinals this year.

Paul George isn’t joining you and Kawhi Leonard is likely at least a year away. Is the Lakers’ young core plus James and maybe a fresh-off-a-major-injury DeMarcus Cousins enough to compete with the Western Conference’s elite? Probably not.

James is a smart guy. So he has to be moving out west for a reason.

Sports Illustrated senior NBA writer Lee Jenkins illustrated James’ decision Sunday night.

At the end of the day James wants to beat the Warriors, and despite being 33 years old, he says he’s patient. He’s OK being the first guy in the door and he believes both Magic Johnson and the Lakers brand can bring in top free agents.

Sure, that’s certainly possible and probably likely. However, that’s not at all how it played out this offseason. In fact, it was the polar opposite.

Look at George, and even throw in Russell Westbrook. Both George and Westbrook grew up in California as Lakers fans. Both had the opportunity to be free agents this offseason.

Westbrook took an extension mid-season. George on the other hand entered free agency but almost immediately re-upped with OKC. He didn’t even give the Lakers, the team everyone thought he was leaving Indiana for in the long run, the time of day.

Sure, this is just one example, but it’s certainly interesting. Because you know George knew James would be signing there too.

It makes you wonder.

And sure, Los Angeles is a great franchise with a bright future, but you know what? So are the Philadelphia 76ers. And they’re in the East.

Where it’s just them in the Boston Celtics. That’s it.

Honestly, the Sixers might have been the best choice, especially if Philly can pull off a trade for Leonard. James and Leonard teaming up with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would have been a nasty threat in the East. One that could dominate for years to come.

Sure, Simmons and James are similar players, but are you really trying to tell me you don’t want to add another star to an already talented roster. And not just any star, but LeBron? Philly would have made it work.

But at the end of the day, I want to make one thing clear: James has already cemented his legacy. If anything, he can only go up from here.

And remember, James is taking the exact same path Shaq and Wilt Chamberlain took.

This isn’t some cop out because while the Lakers are the second choice for the NBA title, James is joining a worse team than the one he left. At least with how the Lakers are constructed right now.

There’s no Kevin Love. He doesn’t have the same shooters. Oh, and he’s joining Lavar, I mean, Lonzo Ball. I can’t imagine Ball is a Laker for much longer.

Sure, there’s some young talent on the Lakers. Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle all have a lot of potential, but that’s it – potential.

I’m also curious to see how James meshes with a bunch of 20-somethings. And Lance Stephenson.

Yup. That happened minutes after James agreed to sign with the Lakers.

I don’t know about you, but the makeup of this team is just so weird. People worried about how the Miami Heat were going to mesh after Year 1. I’m significantly more concerned about the makeup of the Lakers right now.

Oh, and final parting note: By going out west, James isn’t going to be in primetime as much anymore. You know the NBA hates that.

Feel free to comment below, check out Ben Whitney and please follow us on Twitter at @ByDJEberle, @MeetTheMatts and @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram at @meetthematts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.

Enjoying Riding The Rails so far? Here’s Episode 12, which features New York Yankees right-handed pitcher David Hale. Episode 13, featuring Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Tommy Kahnle drops Monday evening.

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About the Author ()

DJ Eberle: The youngest of our team, DJ is also the largest. Offensive Tackle Large. In fact, this Albany native used OT for Western New England University - until he graduated in May of 2014. Like Junoir Blaber, he's a regular on Rugby Wrap Up - his dad played rugby with The Matts. His cross to bear, however, is his love for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. As for baseball and basketball, it's the Yanks and Atlanta Hawks. Follow him on Twitter: @ByDJEberle.

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