In the later stages of LeBron’s career, the media and fans have criticized him for coasting in the regular season and taking “rest.” Social media has documented defensive lapses from his second Cleveland stint and his first Lakers’ season.
However, he wanted to put that narrative to rest at the beginning of last season. He gave more effort on the defensive end and helped string the physical Lakers’ defense together. James even received votes for an All-Defensive 2nd Team position.
The Lakers are still a dominant force on both ends, but they’ve suffered from a short-turnaround in the NBA Bubble. The team has had a tough time starting games this season from a lack of energy. The slow start has led to the Lakers playing in multiple overtime games against weak opponents. Instead of resting starters in the second half, they play extended minutes multiple nights in a row.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, when James was asked about his extended minutes and the fast turnaround, he pushed back about the need for rest, “I’m here to work, I’m here to punch my clock in and be available to my teammates.
While it’s great to see James stick through this rough patch, they need to think about the Lakers’ health come playoff time. It’s an anomaly to play four overtime games (three of them in consecutive games), so this trend shouldn’t continue. Hopefully, the Lakers handle their business against their weaker opponents to keep the starters fresh and prevent injury.
Western Conference Standings
The other thing to keep in mind is the tussle at the top of the Western Conference standings. After the recent Lakers’ skid, they are tied for 2nd in the conference with the Clippers at 22-10. In front is the Jazz at 25-6. The Phoenix Suns are close behind at 20-10.
For the Lakers, they could either push for the first seed or drop to the fourth seed. In those scenarios, they avoid the Clippers in the earlier rounds. While the Jazz have had an outstanding season, they aren’t a proven playoff team. The Clippers aren’t either, but they have the star power to compete with the Lakers.
If the Lakers’ skid continues, dropping to the fourth seed might end up being a blessing in disguise.