Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has done just about everything a player can do during his illustrious 19-year career. However, he took that to a new level on Tuesday when he played the center position almost exclusively for 39 minutes in a 132-123 Lakers win over the Houston Rockets.
James had never formally played center before this season, but the Lakers have been extremely successful when they’ve tried it. Temporary head coach David Fizdale made the decision to look at it for a full game after seeing some of the advanced stats in previous games.
It worked yet again, as James had 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists while shooting 11-of-19 from the field. Fizdale spoke about getting to see James up close and how impressive he’s been.
“I just told the team that, they kind of laughed at first like it was no big deal and I was like ‘I don’t think you guys realize what this guy just did,'” Fizdale joked. “He played the five for four quarters and dominated at the position…My gosh, this guy is unbelievable.
“I can’t help it, man. We’re all very lucky as basketball people to get to watch what we’re watching right now out of this man. And it’s just beautiful. And I know our results haven’t been coming back the way we want them to right now, but the way he’s going about this thing and the way he’s playing, he can’t help but to galvanize us and really get this team going in the right direction. I just really feel like as we start to get healthy, his energy and will and his leadership and his poise will be the thing that really pushes us forward.”
Fizdale did say that James at the five won’t be a permanent fixture even if they will be seeing it again. “I think as we get some of our forwards back, you get Trevor Ariza back, obviously later on AD, I think we’re gonna play a ton of small-ball.
“I think our fives still have a very valuable role on this team from the standpoint of there’s some great over 7-foot guys in this league that can just abuse you if you play small,” Fizdale said. “So we want to still keep our fives engaged, DJ and Dwight are important to what we’re doing. Tonight I just went with my gut and stayed with the small-ball trying to match up with their speed and versatility.”
Until Anthony Davis makes his return, it would be surprising if James did not continue playing the center position regularly. Of course, like always, matchups will dictate what the Lakers do with their centers.
Either way, Fizdale appears content to sit back and watch James dominate the way he has been for nearly two decades.
Fizdale: starting James at center was collaborative decision
When asked if it was his idea to start James at center, Fizdale praised Frank Vogel and the entire coaching staff for helping him come to a conclusion although revealed it was ultimately him that made the final decision.
“Today, it was great. We all met about it, we got everybody’s input, and then the last thing Coach said was ‘Fiz, you make the decision, here is all of our input and you figure it out,'” Fizdale said.
“But I just felt like after all the input, and a lot of guys came up with the same thing I did, it’s not like it was my idea, just taking in all the information, I felt like with all of the things in front of me, the decision was the right decision to start him at the five tonight. It may not be that tomorrow night and we’ll deal with that tomorrow night. But tonight, we just felt like this was the right thing to move forward with this.”
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