Every team in the Association has a recipe for success. For some, its predicated on playing defense. For others its about getting everyone on the team involved. The Lakers know that their key to victory against any other team in the NBA is for Anthony Davis and LeBron James to be who they have always been this season. When those two are on their game and the role players give them just enough, they are tough to beat.
The Jazz saw that first hand tonight.
Unlike the game before where the Lakers lost after a sub-par outing by AD, this game saw the Unibrow Unidominate. In that, he was the only player doing the dominating. LeBron James finished with a very respectable 22pts, 8 rbs and 9 assists, but it took LBJ a while to get started. AD did more than enough to keep the team close until LBJ showed up and closed out the Jazz on what was technically a road win for the Purple and Gold.
This was a good win for the Lakers in that it gave them the #1 seed in the Western Conference and has them 2-1 in the Orlando Bubble games. Aside from that though, this was a game without much of an identity. The Jazz stayed close and were ahead for most of the first half and half of he third. You got a sense watching the game however that it wasn’t the Jazz beating the Lakers so much as it was the Lakers beating themselves. The team just wasn’t engaged until about half way through the 3rd.
After taking the lead in the 3rd, the Lakers never looked back.
Which leads me to the one very interesting thing about this otherwise un-interesting game. It was a microcosm, a sneak peak, to the type of player LeBron James needs to be so continue to play in this league for another six years. Or, maybe longer.
Don’t laugh. Kyle Graves wrote about the possibility of James playing 10 more years. Of course, this is all based on an interview LBJ gave in 2018. Back then James said as much in an interview with Tim Ferriss on his podcast.
“I would love to see the floor with my son. My son is in the eighth grade now, if he continues on the path that he’s on right now, he could possibly be in the NBA in five or six years. That would be an unbelievable moment not only for myself but for my family, for everybody. So we’ll see. Obviously taking care of the body is number one, and we’ll continue to do that. That would be pretty dang cool if I were able to be on the NBA floor with my oldest son.”LeBron James
A lot has to go right for James’ dream to come true. Bronny has to be good enough to play in the Association. The team LBJ is on at that time, very likely the Lakers, has to either draft him or otherwise add him to their roster. Of course, health is always the great unknown. But another key step here is the LeBron has to make the transition from “THE” player, to “A” player on this team.
To be fair, LeBron James will never be “A” player on any team by virtue of being LeBron James. He is arguably the greatest player of his generation and will always get the respect on the court deserving of that title. However, Father Time is famously undefeated. James’ game will deteriorate. As difficult as it is to accept that fact, it will happen. When it does, James will have to make the difficult decision to accept a lesser role.
Dirk Nowitzki did it. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so as well. Both played 20 seasons in the NBA with Nowitzki averaging 15 minutes per game in his final season, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 22. In short, they continued to play, but they played in spurts.
The Bubble games have been a good showcase of the type of games we may see from LBJ as he keeps his hope alive of playing with his son. He has played amazing defense, when the situation called for it. He closed out a game with a dagger shot or assist, when that was the play the team needed. Against the Jazz he closed out the game by leading the Lakers at the end of the 3rd and start of the 4th. He was the closer when the team needed to close out the Jazz.
The Lakers will make a deep run in the playoffs and could very well see themselves in the Finals. To get there they need LeBron to be who he has always been. But, in order to keep his dream alive James knows he has to make some fundamental changes to his game. He needs to be OK with letting another player be the best player on his team. He needs to be OK with being the best player on the court when the game is on the line.
So far, in the Bubble, we have seen the start of LeBron accepting, even embracing, both roles!