If there are two main issues plaguing LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers so far this season, it is their defensive struggles and taking care of the ball. The Lakers are in the bottom five of the NBA in both turnovers per game and defensive rating and it has contributed in a major way to their rough start.
Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the Lakers committed 20 turnovers with 15 of those coming in the first half. Further compounding their early struggles was that the team seemed completely disinterested on the defensive end as Cleveland continually got open looks both from three-point range and in the paint.
But James believes those issues are linked as their turnovers contributed to their malaise on the defensive end, and believes he is at the forefront of fixing that.
“Turnovers. When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good team. When we turn the ball over, it definitely takes the sails out of us and we have to do a better job of that, especially me for sure,” James said postgame.
LeBron did lead the Lakers with seven turnovers against the Cavaliers, though the Lakers were able to overcome their issues and win the game. In fact, the 101 points allowed to Cleveland was their lowest of the season so far and the energy on that end of the court, particularly in the fourth quarter, was completely different.
When the team is constantly allowing easy baskets because of bad turnovers, it gets disheartening after a while, frustration builds and the effort suffers. James is the tone-setter and if he is giving up the ball the most, it will ultimately trickle down.
The Lakers know that they must improve greatly on the defensive end in order to get things into gear and James insists that the team is working to fix their issues on that side of the court.
“Every day, it’s every day. We’ve got a lot of guys that came from different systems or played defense a different way so we’re working every day. Our film sessions are probably the most important getting an opportunity to watch and clip it to see what we can do better…The film that we watched from the OKC game, the second half, we were able transfer to tonight and hold this team to 42% shooting so that’s fantastic.”
Not helping the Lakers’ efforts on that side of the court is the fact that three of the players expected to take on those primary defensive roles, Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn, have yet to play a game this season. That being said, the effort of those who are on the court and their failure to execute the schemes have been unsatisfactory.
Film sessions allow for the players to see where they are making mistakes and for everyone to speak up and hold each other accountable. The more they see where they are going wrong, the easier it should be to fix the issues.
LeBron understands that everything starts with him and if he is setting the tone on both sides of the court, the rest of the team will follow.
James provides update on injured ankle
Jamesfinished with a team-high 26 points in his first game back after a sprained ankle, and though he struggled with his outside shot, was his normal dominant self attacking the paint.
After the game, the Lakers superstar spoke about his ankle, noting that while it is still a little sore, it feels much better now than it did after Sunday’s game.
“Definitely feel it a little bit right now, that’s just adrenaline wearing off. But it feels a lot better postgame today than it did postgame Sunday.”
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