How will Lakers manage minutes of star duo? ‘I’m born to have workload,’ LeBron James says
LOS ANGELES — The Lakers had no need to make much of a halftime speech. Save that for the games that count. Save that for when the Lakers actually feel tested.
So well before Los Angeles' 126-93 preseason win over the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on Wednesday, Anthony Davis could not help but laugh with LeBron James at halftime. Before finishing with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in his Lakers debut in Los Angeles, Davis mused that those low numbers did not matter. Not when he finished with eight assists.
“It’s the first time in a while where I can have five or six points, whatever it was, at halftime and we’re up 30,’” Davis recalled telling James. “It feels good knowing that you don’t have to do much and everybody has a role. When you have guys all over the board who can score the basketball, you don’t need to do everything every possession.”
Make no mistake: The Lakers’ success largely hinges on James and Davis. The Lakers parted ways with a significant part of their young core two years ago to pave cap space for James’ eventual arrival. The Lakers sent another chunk of their young core and a handful of draft picks last summer to New Orleans for Davis.
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Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) and forward LeBron James (23) shown n the first half against the Warriors at Staples Center. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
James scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed 11 assists. Davis knocked off rust from missing an exhibition with a sprained right thumb.
Still, the Lakers do not want to burden their stars. And Lakers coach Frank Vogel expressed optimism that they won't. Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Quinn Cook and Jared Dudley shot a collective 10-of-16 from deep.
“Hopefully the two of them can help each other reduce the workload,” Vogel said. “It doesn’t always have to always go through LeBron like it has with teams past, and it doesn’t always have to go through AD. Quite frankly even when those guys are out, I love the role players that we have and their ability to carry the load as well.”
James’ eyes perked up when he heard about Vogel’s hopes and how it matches with his perspective.
“My perspective, personally?” James repeated. “It sounds good. It sounds good.”
James said those words with a hint of skepticism. It might sound good on paper. The 34-year-old is entering his 17th season after missing a combined 27 games last season because of a strained left groin. The 26-year-old Davis missed a combined 26 games last season in New Orleans because of various ailments.
Does that sound good in reality, though?
“I’m born to have workload,” James said. “It is who I am, both on and off the floor.”
“I’ve trained my body all through the summer to be able to take contact, fall on the ground and be able to get up,” James said. “So I’ve just been blessed to put myself in drastic situations where I can jump up in the air, turn and fall and also get up and be able to get back on defense and get back to the timeout on the play.”
So Vogel might play James and Davis as they have in recent seasons. James averaged 35.2 minutes last season, while Davis logged 33 minutes per night in New Orleans. With the two playing with a superior supporting cast this season, James and Davis could have an easier working environment.
“It feels good to be able to just fit in,” Davis said. “When the ball comes your way, either score or pass it. It has kind of been like that all preseason.”
LeBron has done a lot in his career. But he even admitted this play in a pre-season game is one of his favorites. LeBron: “It’s up there.” https://t.co/w3lqc3Q9Po
James epitomized that balance when he performed a highlight-reel play that he admits is “up there” amid all of his other accomplishments through 16 NBA seasons.
When Davis grabbed a rebound off a missed Warriors shot, James charged to the basket. Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson disrupted James’ path, and in mid-air, James twirled the ball to the left side of his head. Then he flicked a no-look pass to Green on the far corner.
Green sank the 3-pointer. As Green mused,“It was probably the most pressure I had in a long time making a shot.” The play captured how the Lakers’ supporting cast can make life easier for James and Davis.
“LeBron is going to be LeBron. AD is going to be AD, attract attention and put pressure on the rim and the paint,” Green said. “It’s our job to give him the space and create space for them, knock down shots and take care of the ball.”
As for Davis? This has become a new phenomenon.
He tripled his assists total in New Orleans from his rookie season in 2012-13 (1.3) to 2018-19 (3.9). Davis' assist numbers might increase again this season because of who receives his passes.
“He makes everybody better,” Davis said of James. “He draws a lot of attention so therefore as a result we had a lot of open shots. Guys are making the right plays. It is going to be like that all year.”
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