The Los Angeles Lakers have had to play without LeBron James for more than half this season already due to a number of reasons. First, it was an ankle injury, then an abdomen injury, followed by a one-game suspension, and now a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test will keep him out for the next few games, putting a ton of pressure on the Lakers’ other superstars in Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
With Davis and Westbrook leading the way, the Lakers still have more than enough to compete against anyone, but losing LeBron undoubtedly puts a lot more on their plate as he is the leader of the team. For Davis, he feels the need to ramp up his aggression with James on the sideline.
“Be a little bit more aggressive,” Davis said after the Lakers’ 25-point win over the Sacramento Kings. “The team leans on me a lot to be aggressive when he’s in and when he’s out, but especially when he’s out. I saw that last game, they go off my energy on both ends of the floor. Guys look towards me to set the tone and I tried to do the same thing tonight, set the tone early on both sides of the ball and guys followed.
“I think my job and Russ’ job is not to feel like we have to do it all, but we have to also do enough to help our guys and I think tonight we did enough and also guys stepped up. It’s not just gonna be on me and Russ, it’s a team thing, but me and Russ, that’s the head of snake. We got to be able to continue to lead these guys until LeBron comes back and then when he comes back, it’s gonna be three of us, the three-headed monster. So we got to continue to do what we do, but it’s my job to continue to set the pace.”
Davis certainly set the pace against the Kings, leading the Lakers with 25 points to go along with seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals and Westbrook was right there as well with 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists. And as Davis said, other guys stepped up as well with Malik Monk, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony all making huge contributions.
Even still, without James in the lineup, things are more difficult. But unlike Davis, Westbrook doesn’t feel the need to change his approach.
“It’s the same for me, it doesn’t change,” the Lakers’ point guard said. “My approach stays the same each and every night. I kind of pride myself on being consistent in that, having the same approach, because my team and my teammates need it.”
One thing no one has ever criticized Westbrook for is his effort and intensity on a nightly basis and that should definitely help the Lakers as they move forward throughout this tough season without their leader.
Davis details conversation with James after news of positive test
The most important thing in the wake of the news that James would be entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols was the health of LeBron himself. Davis spoke with him and said that he was in good spirits and seemed to be asymptomatic.
“I talked to him today,” Davis said after the win over the Kings. “Obviously, me and LB are close, and I checked on him. Just hearing what Joel Embiid said, obviously he was scared and said he thought he wasn’t gonna make it. COVID is a scary thing, especially with all the variants coming out and all that.
“He said he’s good, I think he said he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign. But we want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important. It’s bigger than basketball, he has a family. We want to make sure that he’s good no matter what. This basketball thing is gonna stop and we want to make sure that his health is most important, especially for our organization.”
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