At 34 years old in his Year 17 of his NBA career, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has looked as dominant as ever, combining his freak athleticism with veteran savvy to establish himself as an MVP contender once again.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra worked with James for four seasons in Miami, where they went to four Finals and won a pair of championships. He isn’t shocked to see the future Hall of Famer still playing at an extremely high level.
“I think he’s got the fountain of youth that we’re all searching for,” Spoelstra told the Sun-Sentinel Thursday in advance of the Heat and Lakers facing off on Friday night. “But I’ve said it before we played them, the last time we played, that the fountain of youth for LeBron James is a bunch of work and no days off when no one’s watching.”
James is currently averaging 25.8 points per game to go with seven rebounds and a NBA-leading 10.8 assists per game. He’s fresh off his sixth triple-double of the season which came in the Lakers latest win — a 96-87 win against the Orlando Magic to move to 22-3 this season.
“This doesn’t happen by accident,” Spoelstra said. “During the summer, he rarely takes a bunch of time off. So it’s not like he’s working to get himself fully back into shape after enjoying three or four months of doing nothing. He’s usually about, at any point during the summer, he’s probably three or four, five days away from being ready to rock for training camp.
“He invests a lot of time into his craft and to his body, on all levels, to give himself the best chance of fighting something that we will all lose to. But when you give a great fight that most people aren’t willing to do, you can do remarkable things.”
Heat Star Jimmy Butler Praises LeBron James
It’s not just Spoelstra who is showing James with praise ahead of their matchup. New Heat star Jimmy Butler got in on it as well.
“He’s played a lot more games than anybody, because he’s constantly going to the Finals,” Butler said. “And he plays both sides of the ball, as well. So we’re talking about a guy that has done it at that level for so long.
“He’s always taken care of his body, super smart. I think everybody wants to be like that. Prime basketball? Is he still in his prime? Who knows? Yes? No? But he’s still effective and he’s one of the best players to play this game.”
The Heat aren’t off to a bad start themselves, sitting at 18-6. Butler has logged 35-plus minutes the last six games, which included a 135-121 victory against the Atlanta Hawks last time out where he collected a massive 20-point, 18-rebound and 10-assists triple-double. He also finished the game at plus-32, a season-high.
So that being said, facing the NBA’s leading squad is not something the Heat and Butler are backing down from.
“We got a job to do. Nobody is intimated,” Butler said. “We are going to be prepared and we are expected to win.
Heat Banged up as Lakers Come to Town
The Heat will be shorthanded as they face the Lakers, with Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters all listed as out.
The Lakers have some injury concerns themselves, with Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo being listed as questionable. Neither played against the Magic.
Additionally, Avery Bradley — who returned from a month-long absence due to a hairline fracture in his leg against Orlando — and Anthony Davis are listed as probable.