After the Los Angeles Lakers went into the All-Star break on a 2-4 slide and under .500, LeBron James acknowledged a need to increase his level of intensity in effort to will the team into the playoffs.
James has historically done so in his career, but admitted needing to ascend to that level with 25 games remaining in the regular season was much earlier than previous cases. He then went and played 40 minutes, finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to help lead the Lakers to a comeback win over the Houston Rockets.
James followed that with 27 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists in 39 minutes two nights later — albeit in a losing effort to the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite James’ declaration and the Lakers’ need to win games, head coach Luke Walton doesn’t anticipate needing to coach his star any differently.
“No, no different than we’ve been,” Walton said of the communication he would have with James moving forward.
“We have pretty open dialogue about when to get him out, what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish. So it won’t be different from my end. We know we have the best player in the world on our team, but we also know it takes a team to win.
“We expect him to lead us, and we expect the other guys on the team to continue to make plays and help us win games. This league is too tough to do it by yourself. We feel confident and believe in the guys that we have.”
In addition to James, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma have put together strong performances since the All-Star break. But defense has remained an issue for the Lakers, with many players banking on Lonzo Ball’s eventual return as a means of shifting the tide.
As that might be delayed due to a bone bruise, James and Walton must find a way to get the Lakers trending back in the right direction before they possibly slip into an insurmountable hole.
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