LeBron James Isn't ‘same Animal' About Winning, David Griffin Believes

By now, you know the set up for the upcoming NBA season. 

The Warriors, fresh off five straight NBA Finals appearances, are wounded, limping into the new campaign without Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Cousins. Klay Thompson is recovering from a torn ACL and is expected to be out until at least the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Western Conference got better. Anthony Davis joined LeBron James with the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up on the Clippers, Russell Westbrook now is a Rocket and Mike Conley now calls Utah home. 

With the Warriors licking their wounds, many expect James and the Lakers to battle the Clippers for conference supremacy. 

Will James, fresh off his first missed postseason since 2005, still have the same juice he used to? Current Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations and former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin has his doubts. In a wide-ranging conversation with Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer, Griffin noted how James' drive appeared to dissipate after he and the Cavs beat the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

"There wasn't a lot else for him," Griffin told Fisher of James' mindset after that title. "I don't think he's the same animal anymore about winning."

James has faced criticism of late, with a number of people proposing that he only joined the Lakers due to his desire to live in Southern California and that his play in Year 1 with the Lakers showed he no longer craved a title run as he once did. 

[RELATED: Klay thinks Warriors have many years of title contention ahead]

The three-time NBA champion will have a chance to prove Griffin and the rest of his doubters wrong this season. With Griffin trading Davis to the Lakers, James now has the co-star he was missing last season and a roster that is better suited to form a title-contender around him.

At 34 years old, James and the Lakers will need to manage his load in order to keep him healthy for what LA hopes is a lengthy postseason run. If he's healthy come playoff time, we'll see if James still has that winning drive when he and the Lakers face the likes of the Clippers, Warriors and Rockets with the title hanging in the balance.

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