“I think we’ve just reached the point where it’s not even controversial at all to say the decline is finally here. Age has finally, to some degree, caught up with LeBron James.” That was Zach Lowe on December 20th - since then, LeBron James has averaged 36.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game on 58.9% FG. Last night, in his first game as a 37-year-old, LeBron put up his most impressive game of the season, proving that the degree to which father time has caught on is minimal.
Cutting down on turnovers
In his 7th straight 30 point game, and season-high in points, LeBron put up a monster stat line - 43/4/2, 2 blocks, 2 steals; 16/26 from the field (61.53%), 5/10 from 3 (50%), and 6/9 from the line (66.66%). The fact that James did all this in only 29 minutes on the floor isn’t even the most impressive stat of the night.
Since the arrival of Russell Westbrook, the most glaring problem with the Purple and Gold have been turnovers. The Lakers have done a horrible job of taking care of the ball, and LeBron reemphasized it in his postgame comments after the horrible loss to the Grizzlies a couple of days ago.
”There’s a difference between careless turnovers and attack turnovers,. We gotta cut down on our careless turnovers — the ones that’s just unforced. We’re gonna have attack turnovers, which is OK. We have a lot of attackers and we understand that. But, the careless turnovers, where, literally, you just turn the ball over and there’s no pressure or there’s no reason for it, those are the ones that get us in trouble.”
LeBron James, postgame
In a perfect example of “practice what you preach,” the 37-year-old James put up a 43/4/2/2/2 in 29 minutes with ZERO TURNOVERS in the very next game after this quote. With Anthony Davis out with a sprained MCL, LeBron’s been putting the Lakers on his back. But despite his streak of impressive 30 point games, the lakers are 2-5 in those seven games.
We’ve known for years LeBron’s been managing his effort level in the regular season, and it’s probably one of the main reasons for his impressive longevity. That strategy will obviously have to be put on ice for a while. The Lakers are currently 7th in the West with an 18-19 record.
Given the fact Anthony Davis is out for at least a month, there’s no more time for load management. One of the reasons James was able to do what he did in only 29 minutes was because the spiraling Portland Trail Blazers were on the other side of the court. More often than not, it’s going to take a lot more than 29 minutes to carry this Lakers team to victory.
The question isn’t can LeBron do this, we know he (still) can. The question is, at what cost will it come? We’ll find out in April and May.