After a 2023-22 season start interrupted by injuries, LeBron James finally feels like he’s getting back to health.
“For me personally, I’m getting healthier and healthier every day,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder over the weekend.
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“Obviously, my injury played a big part in my loss of form. The dynamics of how I move, how I play left me a bit hampered at times not to take a full step and things of that nature. I can see the plays before they happen, but I can’t make them. “
Against the Orlando Magic on Sunday night, James may have put up his best performance of the season, leading the Lakers to a home win while recording their second triple-double of the season.
Finishing with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks, James flew up and down the court, seemingly free of physical limitations.
After the game, he said the catalyst for the performance was a good night’s sleep and a chance to see his son, Bronny, the night before.
“Rest as well as possible, get into my REM sleep, but also have the opportunity to fly to Phoenix and watch my son play ball,” he said.
“He inspires me. It felt great to wake up today after seeing him and his team last night.”
– Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) December 13, 2023
The 106-94 win came without Anthony Davis in the lineup, with the Lakers now 3-0 in games Davis is unavailable this season.
Those three wins have come against lower-tier opponents, with Indiana, Oklahoma City and Orlando near the bottom of their respective positions in the conference. Opposition aside, James has dominated those three meetings, averaging 34.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists.
Are LeBron and AD working on the rust? (via cleaning the glass)
|LeBron in / Davis out||409||118.1||107.8||+10.3|
|LeBron off / Davis on||1134||104.0||109.8||-5.8|
Now 15-13, the Lakers are looking to shed what has been a truly lackluster start to the season. So far, the answer to his problems has been to let James dominate as he has for nearly two decades.
Despite missing 12 games this season, when he hasn’t been sitting down, James once again carries a heavy load. Their average of 36.8 minutes per game ranks fourth in the league, behind only Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Miles Bridges, with that trio nine or more years younger than the Lakers superstar.
“On the one hand, I don’t play thinking about injuries. And besides, I feel worse when I play low minutes, “James said in preseason.
He may not like the idea of the planned break, but for head coach Frank Vogel, it hasn’t been sustainable, with efficiency on both sides of the court plummeting when James is on the bench.
No no no!
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 13, 2023
Davis missed his second straight game with knee pain and the 28-year-old remains a regular in injury reporting with a variety of ailments. The eight-time All-Star holds the key to reducing the burden on James in a role that has not gone as planned during the first quarter of the season.
Just over two weeks from his 37th birthday, James put on a show for the STAPLES Center crowd, fully showing off his dominant self, scoring in transition and smashing a series of old blocks. In full health, there’s no question that James can lead this Lakers team into contention for the home court in the first round of the playoffs – you just get the feeling there was hope he wasn’t leaning so much on him.
With another win on the bench, the postgame routine will include a movie with Bronny and, of course, a good night’s sleep, before the Lakers hit the road for a three-game trip with stops in Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago
“We are always trying to find ways to be better, not just individually but for the betterment of our team. It’s about playing hard and playing for your teammates and trying to figure out how to win the ball game.”
“I feel like we’re starting to round second base. We want to keep getting better and better, but I love the way we played the last two games.”