With Anthony Davis out for at least the next month, the Los Angeles Lakers knew they would need to be creative when it came to addressing the center position.
DeAndre Jordan has not played well when manning the paint and while Dwight Howard can still contribute, he is best suited coming off the bench and playing when the matchup calls for a traditional big man. The Lakers built their roster to play fast and it looks like they may have found a solution at center with LeBron James.
In their win against the Houston Rockets, lead assistant coach David Fizdale started James at center and it worked as well as one could have hoped for as the 36-year-old had a great game on both ends of the floor. James is arguably the smartest basketball player in the NBA and he noted how much pride he takes in knowing how to play all five positions, which has allowed him to make this transition.
“I think I’ve taken pride over my career in being able to play five positions or at least know all five positions. If I’m guarding a big, what is the coverage? If I’m guarding a small, what’s the coverage? Always trying to keep myself in a position where I could be anywhere on the floor,” James said after the game.
“So tonight, it calls for our team it calls for me to start at center and I just try to be ahead of a lot of plays. Keep my guards and forwards alert of actions of what’s going on behind them and also just try to keep my energy level up over the course of a 48-minute game.”
While James looked more than capable as the Lakers’ starting center, he revealed that it was a first in his basketball career for him.
“I never played center in my life before. I’ve always been on the wing or on the ball. I was a skinny, lanky kid growing up, but I was never the biggest guy or the center position. I’ve always kind of played the wing or kind of handled the ball.”
The ultra-small lineup with James at center clearly benefitted everyone as the added space made it easy to find driving lanes which in turn opened up outside shots. James led all scorers with 32 points, with most of those coming in the painted area.
James at center seemed to solve several issues for the Lakers but maybe more importantly, showed the team and the fanbase how he and Russell Westbrook can successfully co-exist on the floor together. After a down game against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day, Westbrook bounced back to the tune of 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. It was by far the best James and Westbrook have looked this season, which is a welcome development given L.A.’s recent struggles.
While James said he is not feeling the physical effects of playing center yet, it may be something the Lakers only look to utilize in the short term until Davis is back.
LeBron James says he is in good offensive zone
James has been on a tear as a scorer the past couple of weeks, and while him at center is certainly a factor, the star simply attributed it to him being in a good groove.
“I wouldn’t say that, I just feel like I’m in a really good offensive zone right now.”
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