The Los Angeles Lakers have become LeBron James’ one-man army in the last few games while injuries and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the NBA sidelined a third of the team’s roster.
In the offseason, the Lakers brought in Russell Westbrook to take some of the burden off James’ shoulders. But the misfortunes of the first months of the 2021-22 campaign didn’t allow the four-time NBA champion to slow down in his 19th season in the league.
James is clocking in 37 minutes per game this year, the most since he signed with the Lakers. The 36-year-old All-Star’s minute average rose to 37.8 over the last five games while the Lakers faced their opponents with less than nine players from the main roster cleared to make an appearance.
But David Fizdale, who has acted as the interim head coach since COVID-19 sidelined Frank Vogel last week, said he doesn’t consider James’ workload a problem.
“LeBron [James] don’t give us a choice,” he said. “What you talking about? Like put me out there. This guy is a freak. It’s so cool being with him again. He wants to be able to compete. So if he sees a situation where we’re down or he would normally come out, but it’s right there, I feel okay like in Chicago. Just let me know, but he felt good. He just kept saying, ‘Hey, I want to stay in here.’
“No, I don’t have a concern is the short answer. Again, I’m not here that long (laughs). That’s easy for me to say as an assistant (laughs). That’s obviously the higher-ups and our medical team will obviously have to make those decisions. The way he prepares himself and the liveliness that he brings to the game. No, I don’t.”
James has already missed 10 games due to injuries himself, grappling with a sore ankle and an abdomen sprain earlier this season.
Westbrook says ‘nobody cares’ about Lakers’ injuries
The Lakers are yet to have a full squad available even in a single game, contributing to the team’s disappointing results since the season started. That led to criticism of the team and doubts over L.A.’s chances to compete for the title.
But while Russell Westbrook accepts the criticism, he thinks the impact of the injuries on the team has been underemphasized.
“That’s obvious. Everybody knows that, but nobody cares, they don’t want to hear that,” Westbrook noted.
“That’s just reality because every game we get asked the same question of ‘hey can you guys figure it out?’ But everybody obviously knows that we haven’t even been able to see what our team can actually be like thus far.”
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