So with James locking in on defense lately, the rest of the NBA is getting a reminder that the four-time MVP can be one of the top stoppers in the league when he steps up to the plate.
James notched 2 steals and 2 blocks in a 117-91 blowout against the Warriors on Sunday in a season-low 24 minutes. That comes on the heels of a 3-block, 4-steal performance in a win against Portland.
James is already a candidate for MVP, but his teammate Kyle Kuzma is starting the campaign to get James on the All-Defensive squad.
Retweet for @KingJames all defensive team ❗️
— kuz (@kylekuzma) March 1, 2021
The tweet picked up steam in a hurry, notching more than 12,500 retweets in just a few hours. James is a five-time selection on the All-Defensive team but hasn’t garnered the honor since 2013.
The Lakers currently have the best defensive rating in the league at 105.1 and that’s without Anthony Davis in the lineup. James has the second-highest defensive rating in the league, per StatMuse, behind Utah big man Rudy Gobert. Kuzma is suprisingly close behind, ranking No. 6.
James on Defense: ‘Everybody’s Been Flying Around’
James took the Lakers rough four-game losing streak personally. While he’s been a major catalyst in the purple and gold getting back on track, James isn’t taking all the credit, especially when it comes to the defensive improvements.
“It’s my job to figure it out on both sides of the floor,” James said, per Lakers reporter Mike Trudell. “Defensively, I’ve just been a little more active. I’ve just been flying around … everybody’s been flying around.”
LeBron on picking things up these last 2 games to snap the losing streak: "It’s my job to figure it out on both sides of the floor. Defensively, I’ve just been a little more active. I’ve just been flying around … everybody’s been flying around.”
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 1, 2021
The Warriors are averaging 114 points per game but managed just a season-low 91 against the locked-in Lakers.
“They’re the No. 1 defense in the league for a reason. They have really good personnel, even without [Anthony] Davis,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in his postgame press conference. “They’re a big strong team and LeBron is a genius defensively. He can play centerfield and knows what’s coming. They did a really good job of being physical.”
Kerr also had praise for James before the nationally televised thumping.
“He’s a little like Tom Brady,” Kerr said of James, a figure he knows well from their battles in the NBA Finals. “Like at some point, you gotta slow down. But he doesn’t seem to slow down. Maybe it will surprise me when he does slow down.”
Frank Vogel Sleeping Better With LeBron Getting Rest
The light 24-minute workload for James was a nice change of pace after he averaged 36.3 minutes in the month of February — including four games that he played over 40 minutes in. It led to much conversation about his regular-season workload, although James made it clear he had no qualms about logging the long nights.
That being said, one person who was happy to see James resting up on Sunday night was Lakers skipper Frank Vogel.
“I sleep better at night, that’s for sure,” Vogel said when asked about James playing 24 minutes.
Frank Vogel on LeBron James only playing 24 minutes tonight: “I sleep better at night, that’s for sure."
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) March 1, 2021
Despite going just 5-5 over their last 10 games, the Lakers are still in second place in the Western Conference and within 3.5 games of the first-place Jazz. The Lakers head back to the spotlight on Tuesday for another nationally televised matchup against the streaking Phoenix Suns, who have won 14 of their last 17.