Matthew Hinton / Associate Press
LOS ANGELES – LeBron James is still one of the best basketball players in the world, but since the Los Angeles Lakers (29-30) are struggling to climb among the top eight in the Western Conference, he has to take a lead responsibility for team failures.
James recently declared that he had "activated" his playoff mode, but that the Lakers had just lost to the New Orleans pelicans tied to the lottery, even though Anthony Davis was sitting to "rest."
If James and the Lakers want to play in the playoffs, they can not afford to lose a lot more games. They are currently sitting behind the San Antonio Spurs (33-28), the Los Angeles Clippers (33-28) and the Sacramento Kings (31-28). The Lakers must skip two teams for a playoff spot, and that will not happen with defeats at troubled franchises such as the Pelicans and the Atlanta Hawks.
James seemed to blame some of his teammates after the backhand of New Orleans.
"When you've never been there or you know what's needed [to win at a high level]Sometimes you are afraid of feeling uncomfortable. You must be comfortable with the discomfort, "said James about his team, noting that he knew that once he arrived in Los Angeles, the young players of the The team would need time to learn.
He added, "This is the way you approach the game every day, it's your way of thinking the game every day, it's the way you play the game. ready for the game and it's not even like when you get to the arena.Is this basketball, is this the most important thing, why are we doing this? more important in your life right now? "
Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
It's hard to question James, given his advanced track record in the NBA Finals eight years in a row (nine in total) and three titles. But the Lakers are fighting mainly on the defensive side of the ball and James did not seem to have engaged recently.
"LeBron rarely exerts himself beyond an occasional jog in the transitional defense and neglects the shooters in most mid-field situations, leaving them largely open," said Pete Zayas of Laker Film Room. "His defensive play these days looks like a selfless center rather than the high-flying defenseman he was before."
James still records huge numbers. his 24.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.4 assists since his return from injury are pending. It may not be the major problem with the Lakers – the team is deficient in many ways – but James needs to play a bigger role in the solution. He must increase his efforts defensively.
"He has done it all year," said another video analyst. "He was [coasting on defense] for a few years now. "
According to NBA.com, in the 263 minutes of James since his return (62.7%), the Lakers have obtained a negative net score. The team's current team with Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, Reggie Bullock and James yields 116.2 points for 100 possessions in four games. For reference, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the league's worst defensive score at 115.9.
If James asks his teammates, does this include Ingram, who plays among the best players of the most consistent basketball of his career (with an average of 20.9 points per game in his last 13 games)?
Or Kuzma, who scored 39 points in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and helped guide does veteran James take a crucial charge to win James Harden a win over the Houston Rockets?
If anyone deserves credit, this is Rajon Rondo, who has made 14 turnovers in the last three games, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who shot 32.4% on a three-point distance in February (a slight improvement from 31.7% in January). James' inexperienced teammates may not be as guilty as others.
Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press
The absence of Lonzo Ball is an undeniable factor. On January 19, he is still away from a sprained ankle. Ball is a factor of difference in defense for the Lakers. Although he is an inconsistent scorer, he plays an important role in the team's offensive.
"It's bad that my injury has happened and [Ball’s] injuries have occurred and so many of our injuries have occurred, "said James. I am so fond of chemistry and camaraderie all season long. … The injuries had a negative impact on our team. "
This is not wrong, but that does not represent either the complete picture.
Whether it's fair or not, James is closely associated with his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. The impression around the league is that the duo has more partnership than the typical player / agent relationship. It's Paul who has publicly called for an exchange on behalf of Davis, urging the Pelicans to send him to the Lakers before the deadline – but in a sense, it was also James.
"He killed the [Lakers’] chemistry, "said an NBA executive. It should not have been so public about it. Even during the game of the star game, he laughed [wanting Davis to be his teammate]. "
The bet for Davis did not work. This may still happen during the summer, but in the meantime, he has torpedoed L.A.'s chemistry and camaraderie (illustrated by the 136 points awarded to the Indiana Pacers and to the 143 to 76ers shortly thereafter).
The team's chairman, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, did not denounce the many rumors circulating before the deadline. Lying on such things is anything but usual in the NBA. Give some plausible credibility in case an agreement is not concluded; otherwise, the spirit of a team can easily be crushed.
James clearly covets another star and this is not a bad thing. It is now evident to many of his teammates that it is likely the next sacrifice, such as Julius Randle, Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson.
A tight basketball team is based on trust. This can be lost in Los Angeles for the rest of the season. The best way for James to have an impact is to increase his defense intensity. Instead of questioning the dedication of his teammates, show that he is dedicated to both sides of the field.
The Lakers are only two defeats behind the three teams that they pursue. They still play the Clippers twice and the Kings once. Only the Spurs blocked the tie over the Lakers.
Making the playoffs is a realistic goal. Even climbing to the seventh seed to avoid the Golden State Warriors in the first round is at hand, but the Lakers need James to dazzle not only offensively, but also on defense. This will not require a fully defensive performance, but a constant effort.
Otherwise, the most important thing in James' life will be reserved for early holidays in mid-April.