Unsurprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers are the winners of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. All things considered, the tournament was a big success, as the league got players to play with a high engine and motivation in December, something that hadn’t happened in years.

The fact that the league had to offer half a million dollars for millionaire players to actually care about these games is somewhat concerning. But at the end of the day, the ratings were up, and some now players have something else to add to their résumé, albeit non-impressive.

This trophy should be pretty much meaningless for a team like the Lakers, but it gave a small-market, rebuilding team like the Indiana Pacers a big platform to show what they’re made of.

However, it also helped the Lakers in one significant aspect: It showed them what they’re capable of when they’re locked in, and LeBron James was in awe of the growth the group showed throughout the course of the competition.

LeBron Praises Lakers’ Growth Over In-Season Tournament

“Just growth. I think every moment we grew,” James said after the win. “The In-Season Tournament, 7-0, it’s been high-intensity games and we’ve just grown. I feel like guys have felt a lot more comfortable in their roles. We’ve had a pretty good understanding of rotations. You know who you’re going to be playing with and you know what you guys want to do out on the floor.”

Anthony Davis played one of his best games as a Laker to clinch the trophy, and Darvin Ham got some key pieces back along the way, getting Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, and Cam Reddish back to full strength ahead of the big game.

Unsurprisingly, the Lakers look way better when they’re at full strength. Nonetheless, beating the Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers in December doesn’t tell you a lot about their real playoff chances, which is why James wanted to pull the brakes a little.

James Won’t Get Too Carried Away

“I think that’s thinking too far down the road,” James said. “We want to put it in perspective that it’s still December. We like where we are right now but we want to continue to work our habits, continue to get healthy as well. But I think right now where we are in December, I would take it. I would take it. But I’m definitely not looking to May and June. That’s too far.”

Their solid play proved what this team is capable of when they’re at full strength, and that’s a massive win for a front office that was looking bad with the way the team had underperformed early in the season:

“There’s too many steps that need to be taken still in order for our team to be who we want to be once the postseason starts,” continued James. “As of today, I like the way we played in the semifinals on Thursday and then tonight. Our defensive intensity, in order for us to win and win at the highest level, we have to defend. We’ve been doing that over the last few weeks.”

Now, all we can hope for is that not only the Lakers but all NBA teams take the rest of the regular season with the same competitive approach they took this tournament, even if there’s not an additional $500,000 on their massive checks at the end of the road.

SURVEY Are the Lakers championship contenders?

Are the Lakers championship contenders?