Without Dennis Schroder’s lightning speed and Anthony Davis’ utter dominance on all levels, LeBron James is left alone to shoulder the burden for the Los Angeles Lakers.
As dominant as James has been through 31 games, when he doesn’t have anyone to relieve the pressure off of him offensively, the Lakers struggle to generate points and create easy looks. Those shortcomings are even more glaring when James heads to the bench, particularly in the last two games.
In the losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat, the Lakers posted a combined offensive rating of 101.1. Without James on the floor, L.A. turned to Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso and Talen Horten-Tucker to come off the bench and score points. Kyle Kuzma has also filled a larger role with the starters to handle the ball and either attack the paint or shoot over defenders.
But despite the problems the Lakers face without James on the court, head coach Frank Vogel is optimistic they possess enough talent to weather the storm. “It’s a challenge, but we have plenty of depth to get the job done,” Vogel said.
“We just have to be a lot more organized than we’ve been in those situations throughout the year when ‘Bron and Anthony are both out. There hasn’t been a ton of those, but Anthony missed some games earlier in the season.”
Vogel added that there are positives to extract from lineups without James, but they’re putting in extra work to improve.
“We’ve had some success with those lineups, but certainly we weren’t good the other night. It was a big focal point of yesterday’s practice and today’s walkthrough — just being more organized in those situations. We have plenty of firepower to get the job done.”
Issues over the past two games point to a larger trend that the Lakers have been dealing with. In the past two seasons, the Lakers have posted a negative net rating when James is off the floor.
Vogel liked the start L.A. got off to earlier in the season and understands keeping everyone involved and in rhythm will be crucial.
“We had a strong start this season with LeBron off the floor, and it’s tailed off a little bit of late because our whole team has short of tailed off in perimeter shooting. But we have plenty of firepower to get the job done,” Vogel said.
“‘Bron, he commands the ball and obviously runs the show, so there’s a natural void. It’s just one of those things we have to be mindful of. Making sure that we’re organized and giving a plan to those guys that are in there. Because like I said, we have plenty of firepower to win those minutes. Especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
LeBron James defends Lakers’ role players
The absence of Davis and Schroder has forced Los Angeles’ role players to step up and produce with bigger roles, but not everyone has been fruitful. Harrell is still banging down low and finishing contested looks and Kuzma is looking confident with his release and ability to penetrate the paint, but the positivity halts there.
However, James came to the defense of his struggling teammates, saying everyone is committed to their role to pick up what Davis and Schroder left behind.
““We’re going to hold each other accountable, and everybody is just picking up in A.D.’s absence,” James said. “Obviously it hasn’t been in wins the last two games, but we’re going to keep on working our habits and continue to be great for one another.”
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