LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Simmons among stars under duress – FOXSports.com

The NFL offseason is officially underway, while the NBA campaign is in full swing.

And that means several players, coaches and even general managers find themselves under duress this week as the calendar gets set to flip to the month of March.

FOX NBA Analyst Chris Broussard combined his football and basketball knowledge, laying out the five individuals that he believes are under the most pressure right now, which he revealed on “First Things First.”

Chris Broussard lists five NBA and NFL individuals who are under duress this week in sports I FIRST THINGS FIRST

Chris Broussard gives his take on the five individuals in sports under the most duress this week. See who else lands on Broussard’s ‘under the most duress’ list.

Let’s dive into Broussard’s list.

5. LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers

The outlook: The “King” had a crowning moment this past weekend during his homecoming to Cleveland as part of the NBA’s All-Star festivities. He was the undisputed focal point of the event, and put a bow on the celebratory occasion (which included his enshrinement into the league’s Top 75 club) with the game-winning shot to seal a win for Team LeBron.

But in the games that matter, James’ unit has performed particularly lackluster. The Lakers haven’t put out a consistent brand of winning basketball at any point this season, and their mediocrity has them teetering on the brink of extinction if they don’t get their act together quickly. The effort starts and ends with James.

Broussard’s thoughts: “His running mate Anthony Davis is hurt, so LeBron James has to carry them. Can he stay healthy? Beyond that, off the court, there are stories galore about LeBron being in a battle with the glamour franchise of the NBA in a way that none of the previous superstars — [Shaquille O’Neal], Kobe [Bryant], Magic [Johnson], Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] — have been. There was even a report that said the Lakers should trade LeBron James. Let’s see how he handles the pressure in the coming weeks.”

4. Brian Gutekunst, GM, Green Bay Packers

The outlook: Aaron Rodgers has been the name that’s dominated the NFL’s headlines as its offseason has gotten underway. All eyes are fixated on Green Bay in anticipation of what the enigmatic QB is going to do. And though his influence on the situation could have tremendous swaying power when it comes to Rogers, Packers GM Gutekunst has flown largely under the radar throughout the ordeal. Gutekunst doesn’t necessarily have an overflow of funds in his favor, and Rodgers has unveiled a lofty asking price, but Gutekunst could very well be the difference between Rodgers’ renewal with the team or departure from it.

Broussard’s thoughts: “His superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers says, ‘Yeah, he told after the season if I want out, they’ll trade me.’ Gutekunst says, ‘I never said that.’ Aaron Rodgers says, ‘I want to see what they do with Davante Adams.’ Gutekunst says, ‘Aaron Rodgers has to be the first domino to fall.’ Not to mention Aaron Rodgers reportedly wanting $50 million, my goodness. If Aaron Rodgers wants a trade, where does Gutekunst send him? Does he do what’s best for the Packers, or send him where Aaron wants to go?”

3. James Harden, G, Philadelphia 76ers

The outlook: Though he didn’t officially request to be dealt out of Brooklyn, Harden’s discontentment with his status there was unmistakable. And while he got his wishes after being shipped to Philly in the trade deadline’s blockbuster deal, Harden remains an enigma of a superstar. The City of Brotherly Love now represents his third home in just as many years, and many are wondering if his championship woes are simply due to his own deficiencies.

Harden’s first offering as a Sixer was outstanding: 27 points, 12 assists and eight boards in 35 minutes. And Joel Embiid was wholly impressed, exclaiming after the game: “I’ve never been that wide open in my life!” First impressions are everything, and Harden wowed with his, but can he and Embiid parlay their excellence into June basketball?

Broussard’s thoughts: “Did James Harden move too soon? Now that we know that Kyrie Irving should be playing home games in some time in the near future, should Harden have just relaxed, chilled out and then in three weeks from now — It’s a “Big 3” in Brooklyn. He left that “Big 3” that was 13-3 — and looked phenomenal when they were together — to now join the “Big 2” … His role in going to be bigger again. I think he liked the idea of [Kevin Durant] taking the big shot. Kyrie can take the big shot. Now Joel Embiid can take the big shot, but you’re going to have to do it as well.”

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

The outlook: He continues to collect individual accolades, winning his second consecutive MVP award a couple of weeks ago, but his regular-season greatness has not translated into postseason success. For the second straight season, Rodgers and the Packers claimed the No. 1 spot in the NFC, and for the second straight season, they failed to reach the Super Bowl. Now, with a string of playoff losses marring his recent legacy, Rodgers faces perhaps the biggest decision of his career as an uncertain future looms.

Broussard’s thoughts: “All the NFL world is focused on Aaron Rodgers. What will he do? Will he retire? Will he return to Green Bay? Will he request a trade? Does he really want $50 million? He has not been questioned as much as he is now. Now we really are wondering: Is this dude just a regular-season phenom? There are reports that even in the Green Bay organization they are saying, ‘Is he the same guy in January and February that he is in the regular season?’ So, a lot of pressure, regardless of what he does.  If he stays, can he lead Green Bay to the Super Bowl? If you go to the AFC, do you really want to take on all of those guys? If you retire, well you were great individually, but it’s been a long time since we saw you in the Super Bowl.”

1. Ben Simmons, PG, Brooklyn Nets

The outlook: The Nets and Sixers pulled off one of the biggest NBA trades in recent memory, and the belief within Brooklyn’s front office is that Simmons is the missing piece that can lead the franchise to the promised land. He is expected to thrive while playing in a system in which he won’t be asked to score, but instead play lock-down defense and distribute the ball to Durant. It’s now been over two weeks since this deal was announced, and it still remains unclear when Simmons will make his Nets debut. The NBA world is ready to see the Nets’ new “Big 3” of Simmons, Durant and Irving in action.

Broussard’s thoughts: “The good news is that Ben is looking terrific on the bench in street clothes with his new teammates. I watched him last night against Boston, and he looked good. He looked comfortable, calm and collected. The bad news is that Ben looks comfortable, and calm and collected in street clothes next to his new teammates. I want to see you Monday out there playing for the Nets. I certainly want to see you in Philadelphia on March 10. That is a game … that the pressure is going to be on. How does he handle it? If he doesn’t play, or if he melts and he crumbles and it clearly effects him, then what are we looking at for the rest of the season for the Nets? If he does play and he plays great, then what are we looking for? It would seem like the mental cobwebs are gone. He’s going to be at his best, and that would bode well for the Nets and maybe have championship ramifications.”

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