LeBron James ‘Imagining’ Lakers Fans In Empty Staples Center
LeBron James
Meg Oliphant-Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers swept their five-game homestand, although their play at Staples Center continues to differ from dominant performances that have commonly been seen from them on the road this season.

L.A. improved to a 9-5 record in their home arena, but the defending NBA champions seemingly ground those victories out. During their latest stretch at Staples Center, the Lakers played three straight overtime games against opponents from the bottom of the standings in each conference: the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The absence of Lakers fans could be one of the reasons behind the team’s mysterious toil at home. Spectators are still not allowed inside Staples Center due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) safety guidelines.

In a sign of longing for the support of the Lakers faithful, LeBron James appeared to be pretending that spectators were on hand for the 115-105 win over the Memphis Grizzlies and even interacted with the figment of his imagination.

The four-time NBA champion later confirmed he was using mental tricks to fire himself up. “I’m definitely imaging our fans being in the building,” James said. “It’s just not the same without them. I miss our fans a lot. There’s a lot of momentum plays that happen in a game where a team calls timeout, or at the end of the quarter, and you know fans are going to be up.

“So just had that vision. That’s what it was pretty much.”

James has grown accustomed to the extraordinary nature of this season that carried on from the previous campaign. But at the same time, he is looking forward to welcoming Lakers fans back in Staples Center. “I’m embracing the norm of what’s been going on lately,” James said.

“I’ve embraced that, but also at the same time I still miss the regular thing I grew accustomed to over my career; all of us in sports in general. I’ve been watching sports my whole life. There’s so many different outcomes and feelings you would have if fans weren’t involved.

“I will never not miss the fans. They have so much to do with the history of sport in general.”

Frank Vogel ‘always’ concerned with James’ minutes

James averaged 39.9 minutes per night during the five-game home stretch, with Lakers head coach Frank Vogel admitting that the 36-year-old All-Star’s workload is always a concern.

But Vogel added that James has responded well to the extra minutes and his body has been “feeling good.”

“Obviously we’ll continue to evaluate how he’s feeling, his workload on a game-by-game basis, and make decisions on a game-by-game basis,” he said.

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