While LeBron James is the unquestioned leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, the front office and coaching staff has made it a point to take as much off his shoulders as possible. Of course, as the best player in the game, there’s only so much that can be taken off James’ plate.
Nevertheless, the Lakers constructed a roster with multiple ballhandlers and head coach Luke Walton has cautiously monitored James’ minutes. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson reminded the team wants to avoid becoming the Cleveland Cavaliers of last season.
Even with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo being afforded with playmaking opportunities, James has not hesitated to assert himself when he felt it necessary. Such was the case Wednesday night when he scored 42 points in a comeback win against the San Antonio Spurs.
He scored 20 of those in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers to a strong finish as they overcame an eight-point deficit. “He handled the ball a lot in Cleveland and Miami. Now he’s kind of getting off the ball, finding his teammates, playing a lot faster in transition,” DeRozan said of James.
“Then, when it’s crunch time, you know who the ball goes to. So a few things change, but late in the game, he’s still the same. Same LeBron.”
James began his onslaught with relentless attacks at the basket and later mixed in 3-pointers. The all-around effort left the Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich largely flummoxed and frustrated.
“Have you watched LeBron play before? He is LeBron James,” Popovich said. “That’s what makes him difficult to guard.”