The Lakers Have a LeBron James-Austin Reaves Conundrum

Austin Reaves

LeBron James could return from his foot injury relatively soon, but ESPN’s Jay Williams has expressed some reservations about James’ return during a recent episode of Keyshawn, JWill, & Max.

Williams noted that Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell have been playing exceptionally well in James’ absence and that bringing LeBron back could impact their play.

Williams questioned how Reaves, who has been playing at his best lately, would be able to maintain his rhythm if the ball is no longer in his hands as much.

“Everybody keeps saying, and I’m the one that said it first and so I started digging down into it: ‘Well, if you bring back LeBron, this team can get to potentially the Western Conference Finals,’” Williams said. “How do you bring back LeBron? The more I sit there and think about it, the more I think about, when you bring back LeBron in this short period, how in the hell is Austin Reaves supposed to continue playing at this level? The ball is in Austin Reaves’ hands a ton, you guys know the kind of lather, the kind of rhythm that you get when the ball is in your hands? You increase the amount of possessions, the volume of possessions, I feel way more comfortable with the rock now.

“When LeBron comes back — and Austin Reaves has been ballin’, D’Lo has been ballin’,” he continued. “But now you bring LeBron James back, are you gonna play LeBron James off the ball if you’re Darvin Ham? You really gonna do that when it comes time for playoff basketball? There’s almost a part of me, Key, that somewhat believes that, yeah, bringing back LeBron, if you had 10 games left in the regular season, 15 games left, it gives him time to get more acclimated. But with what, a week left in the regular season, if that’s the time frame, with two games left, maybe the play-in, maybe into the playoffs, that’s almost maybe working against Austin Reaves and D’Lo.”

Of course, the Lakers can’t go very far in the short-term without LeBron. But it’s undeniably a shame if his presence stifles the blossoming of LA’s promising young players.

Just how much of a shame that is depends on whether you think LA can legitimately contend for a title in the short-term, even with LeBron, or if they should already be looking to the future and their next generation of players.