After an injury-interrupted start to the 2021-22 season, LeBron James finally feels he is finding health.
“For me personally, I’m just getting healthier and healthier every day,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers win over Oklahoma City Thunder over the weekend.
“Obviously, my injury played a big part of me getting out of game shape. The dynamics of how I move, how I play left me kind of hampered at times not to be full stride and things of that nature. I’m able to see plays before they happen, but not be able to actually make them.”
Against the Orlando Magic on Sunday night, James may have delivered his best performance of the season, leading the Lakers to a home win while recording his second triple-double of the season.
Finishing with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks, James was flying up and down the court, seemingly free of any physical limitations.
Postgame, he said the catalyst for the performance was good sleep and having the opportunity to watch his son, Bronny, a night earlier.
“Getting the optimal rest, getting into my REM sleep but also having the opportunity to fly down to Phoenix and see my son play ball,” he said.
“He inspires me. I felt really good waking up today after watching him and his team last night.”
The 106-94 win came without Anthony Davis in the lineup, with the Lakers now 3-0 in games where Davis is unavailable this season.
Those three wins have come against admittedly lower-tier opposition, with Indiana, Oklahoma City and Orlando all near the bottom of their respective conference standings. Opposition aside, James has dominated those three matchups, averaging 34.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists.
Now holding a 15-13 record, the Lakers are looking to shake off what has been a truly mediocre start to the season. Thus far, the answer to their problems has been letting James dominate as he has for near on two decades.
Despite missing 12 games already this season, when he hasn’t been sitting, James is once again carrying a major load. His average of 36.8 minutes per game ranks fourth in the league, only behind Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Miles Bridges, with that trio nine or more years younger than the Lakers superstar.
“For one, I don’t play the game thinking about injuries. And also, I feel worse when I play low minutes,” James said in the preseason
He may not like the idea of planned rest, but for head coach Frank Vogel, it hasn’t been tenable, with the efficiency on both sides of the floor plummeting when James is on the bench.
Davis missed his second straight game with knee soreness with the 28-year-old continuing to be a regular on the injury report with a variety of ailments. The eight-time All-Star holds the key to lessening the load on James in a role that hasn’t gone to plan through the first quarter of the season.
Just over two weeks from his 37th birthday, James put on a show for the STAPLES Center crowd, looking every bit his dominant self, scoring in transition and swatting a number of vintage blocks. At full health, there’s no question James can carry this Lakers team to contention for home court in the first round of the playoffs, you just get the sense there was hope he wasn’t going to be leaned on to this extent.
With another win in the bank, the postgame routine will include some film with Bronny and of course a good night’s sleep, before the Lakers head out on the road for a three-game road trip with stops in Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago.
“We always try to figure out ways how we can be better, not just individually but for the betterment of our team. It’s all about playing hard and playing for your teammates and trying to figure out how to win the ball game.”
“I feel like we are starting to round second base. We want to continue to get better and better but I love the way we played the last couple of games.”