Especially in the playoffs where you can face a team up to seven straight games, coaches do everything possible in planning to deal with what the other team has to offer. In the case of the Houston Rockets trying to prepare for the Los Angeles Lakers, it meant trying to replicate what LeBron James and Anthony Davis bring to the table.
Of course, when you’re talking about one of the greatest players in NBA history in James, the idea of trying to prepare for and replicate his skillset is basically impossible. Teams tend to turn to their bench players in these roles, and for the Rockets that meant 5’9 guard Chris Clemons had the task.
Clemons recently spoke about the challenge of being James and had nothing but praise for the Lakers superstar in an interview with Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report:
“LeBron actually plays [point guard] most of the time,” Clemons tells B/R. “He’s pretty much everything on the court. He plays a whole bunch of different positions. That’s what makes him special. So I would definitely say being a point guard helps, skill set-wise, in trying to replicate his game.”
Clemons further discussed the extra study that goes into playing such a role, especially one that requires playing as an all-time great:
“It’s two different studies of film,” says Clemons. “We obviously have our team film session, where we go through our game plan and stuff like that. But then I have to go off on my own and do a little bit of extra work to break down some film of the guy I’m playing as, to pick up their mannerisms and their tendencies as best as I can and try to mimic it on the court during these practices.”
This is a normal practice that takes place with all teams across all sports, but it is something different when your job is to play someone like James. But with players of that caliber there really is no way to simulate what he can do and that was on display as the Lakers finished off the Rockets in five games.
Head coach Frank Vogel declined to reveal who on the team was filling the role of James Harden and Russell Westbrook in practices, but he did credit Quinn Cook for playing a ‘darn good’ Damian Lillard during the first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.
LeBron in ‘better rhythm’
After a rough start inside the Orlando bubble, the Lakers have looked much better and that particularly applies to James, who has been outstanding. The Lakers’ leader is nearly averaging a triple-double in these playoffs and believes he’s in a much better rhythm than was the case when the team first got to Orlando.
“I would just say I’m in a better rhythm,” he said. “I don’t want to say as far as physically I am where I would love to be, because there’s some things being here in the bubble that are uncontrollable. Some things we can’t control.
“But I think from a rhythm standpoint, I am where I would like to be, but I want to continue that. It’s all about just playing basketball efficiently and being effective out on the floor in my minutes and doing whatever it takes to help our team win.”
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