The Los Angeles Lakers finally appear to be on the right track with wins in six of their last eight games, although LeBron James admitted on Wednesday that things haven’t gone as hoped for the veteran-laden squad.
Thanks to a big shot from Austin Reaves, the Lakers downed the Mavericks 107-104 in overtime, notching their third straight victory and finally getting some breathing room above the .500 mark. While injuries and other issues could be to blame for the early struggles, it’s clear the Lakers did not live up to their championship-level expectations through the first fourth of the season. James was not shy to point that out.
“It hasn’t gone as everyone else has hoped it would,” James told reporters on Wednesday, December 15. “It’s gone as how it’s gone. You go out and you play the game and you want to be better. You want to be better every single day. We want to continue to work our habits, continue do what we got to do to be great every night. So, we are who we are as a team. We got a lot of injuries, a lot of mixed lineups. Obviously guys in protocols and false protocols, things of that nature.
“We are what we are as a team right now and we like where we’re at.”
Things have not gotten easier for the Lakers in terms of having a healthy roster. The team is missing key pieces in Dwight Howard, Talen Horton-Tucker and Malik Monk, who all entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols this week. The squad is also without veteran Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn — two players who have yet to play a game this season but were signed to play significant roles in the rotation.
There has also been rampant trade rumors involving key players — like Horton-Tucker and Russell Westbrook — and Frank Vogel’s job security has also been questioned.
LeBron James Looking Like MVP Candidate for Lakers
While the team has struggled, James has continued to be a steadying, consistent force. He’s averaging 26.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists, playing just over 37 minutes per game and shooting above 50% from the field.
James made a couple of plays against the Mavericks that were awe-inspiring, including on a block attempt — which was called a goaltend — where he got some ridiculous air. And as the announcers on the game reminded everyone of multiple times, James is about to turn 37 at the end of the month.
“Who me? How do I continue how I’m playing? Been doing it for 19 years,” James said in an interview earlier in the week, praising sleep as his secret to success. “Just do what I’ve been doing. I feel like I’m getting better and better each and every day. I’m getting healthier and healthier.”
Russell Westbrook Has Had High Praise for LeBron James
The biggest challenege for the Lakers this season was learning how to integrate former MVP Russell Westbrook into their game plan. It’s been a learning process, but things are evolving and getting easier, especially with James in the lineup more consistently after some early season issues that kept him off the court.
“He’s been aggressive making the right plays and reads,” Westbrook said. “Our team is different and tonight was another night where he imposed his will. When he’s able to do that, and he can do that every night, our team is a different team.”
James was recently named the Western Conference Player of the Week, averaging 28.3 points, 8.0 assists, and 7.5 rebounds between December 6-12. But winning is more important than any individual award for James and the Lakers are finally building some momentum.