Lakers coach Frank Vogel may be concerned. The NBA The All-Star had a break and still had one more game left in his squad. However Vogel said he understood from his players and especially LeBron James that they were focused.
“You could just tell he was really, really locked in,” Vogel told reporters after the Lakers’ 120-116 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, “and it wasn’t beyond a footing – a break-type game, that he was set like a play-off mind. . And he showed it throughout the game. “
The Lakers had their share of doubts at the start of the season. Vogel, in his first season of work, how do you handle a colorful gathering of the team? Was the Lakers deep enough to fight for a title? Did James wash up after missing a big part of last season due to an injury? And how does he mix up with Anthony Davis?
These were all reasonable questions. But now with almost two months left in the regular season, the Lakers have shown that they really are – and lately they have done so when the entire company mourned the death of Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers’ win over the Nuggets is highlighted by this James’s triple-double – pushed their record to the Western Conference lead – 41-12, four games better than that Second place is Denver. The Milwaukee Bucks (3-4) have a better record than the championship with their own hopes. After Wednesday’s win, James was asked about the importance of securing the top seed in the West.
“We don’t talk about it,” he said. “We really don’t. We play the game the right way. “
Here’s how the Lakers make the N.B.A. Royalty:
The Ageless King
After the Lakers’ celebration of James, it was last season A disaster for him. He injured his hip on Christmas day, missed a big part of the season and then saw his second playoff appearance with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in 25 years.
Was this the beginning of the end for James? His struggles turned into narratives that he only moved to the Lakers because he wanted to be in Los Angeles, where he has a production company, and spent last summer filming “Space Jam 2”. LeBron, in other words, had moved to Hollywood. Was basketball still his priority?
Not so fast. Now 35 years old and his 17th N.B.A. Over the season, James has returned to playing some of the best basketball of his career. Choose an adjective, any adjective: efficient, polished, determined. James, a well-known Instagram user, has made a habit of punking his social media posts with a pair of hashtags – #WashDocking and #RevengeSeason – which anonymous reviewers thought was slowing down his game.
“Just very hungry,” James said of his approach, “very persuasive, very enthusiastic in trying to make this team stand out as successful as we can.”
Despite averaging 25 points and 7.8 rebounds a game while shooting 1.7 percent from the field, James could never be the best playmaker. He is averaging a career-best 4.1 assists per game, which leads the league. In addition to his willingness to act as a pass-first distributor, his ability is enhanced by the presence of Davis, who has left plenty of James behind. James, however, Playing just one of only three players in his draft class, he still has much to prove.
Addition to Anthony Davis
Speaking of Davis, remember his 2018-19 season? He told the New Orleans Pelicans to trade him, rejecting the charge when they rejected the Lakers’ heated overtures. The whole The soap opera has been shadowing both companies for months. The Lakers’ fragile chemistry crumbled.
By July, the Lakers finally broke into a deal for Davis and sent three first-round picks to the Pelicans with their first-team members, earning his first All-Star selection this season, including Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. . The Lakers decided to pair Davis with James and mortgage their future for the chance to win the championship immediately.
The good news for the Lakers is that Davis is great Really Great, 26. পয়েন্ট Steals points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.6 steals a game. Vogel described him as “Defensive Player of the Year.” The Lakers rank among the top five teams in the league in overall defensive rating Opponents are being restricted to 44.6 percent shooting.
At the same time, Davis is healthy for the most part, and James is also the key to everything. The Lakers can’t expect to win much without either of them – they are the league’s best pair. Against the Nuggets on Wednesday, they combined for 65 points and 22 rebounds.
None of this was meant to imply that James and Davis did not win the games themselves. The rest of the team exceeded expectations. Clearly: It was rarely felt that the Lakers got so deep after trading nearly half of their rotation to the Pelicans.
Alex Caruso, a fan who moved out of Texas A&M in 2016, His role off the bench as a defensive staffer has solidified. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has developed into a reliable shooter. Danny Green and Avery Bradley are experienced professionals. And Dwight Howard has emerged as one of the biggest surprises, in his latest recovery attempt.
DeMarcus Cousins has enthusiastically accepted his job as a backup center, signed by the Lakers in August after a ligament tear on his left knee. He also found moments to shine. Consider his performance against Denver on Wednesday: In addition to defending long-stretch All-Star Nicola Djokic, Howard collected 14 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. Caruso was also solid: In his 22 minutes on the floor, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 23 points. James praised both players after the games.
James said, “Dwight came in, and changed the game from an offensive rebounding position, to threatening whoever was on it, to being able to go free throws, getting our bonus, getting some right, giving us some gifts, extra assets and A.C. Defensively tune in, get stolen, stop, get striped. “
A frank voice on the bench
After that In the helicopter that crashed last month, killing eight people, including Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Vogel came forward as the Lakers’ face. For three days straight at the group’s practice facility, Vogel was the only member of the organization who addressed the press.
He spoke about how his players were mourning, how James became a rock for his teammates and how the Lakers planned to move forward.
“We want to represent Kobe more than anything,” Vogel said at the time: “What we’ve felt throughout the year about our current group has been strengthened, which we’ve become a family in a short time. And this is one of the things that you do in the N.B.A. With your teams, but especially this group has grown to love each other very quickly ””
Coaching the Lakers is not an easy task under any circumstances, but Vogel, with an ingenious touch, has handled everything this season: an unimaginable tragedy, surpasses expectations, and all the accessory pressure associated with coaching James in one of the league’s most splashiest markets. Vogel has consistently sought the input and feedback of his players.
During the process, he seems to have gained their trust, and so did the Lakers His approach to winning is rewarding. They want it to continue.
Howard said, “It’s going to take time in the second half of the season.”