Although the Lakers have stumbled their way through the first two months of the NBA season, no one can say LeBron James hasn’t done his part in trying to keep Los Angeles afloat in the western conference. On Sunday, James became the oldest player in league history to record a 30-point triple-double (30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in the Lakers’ 106-94 win over the Orlando Magic.
James turns 37 later this month, yet he’s still capable of pulling off one of these performances every now and again. They don’t come as frequently as they did five years ago, but the way the Lakers have looked so far this year, they’re going to need more of them if they plan on making a deep playoff run in the West. LeBron does have two triple-doubles in his last three games, though, and has dropped at least 30 points in six of his previous eight.
The team has struggled, the injuries seem to be piling up on James, and the criticism comes from all directions, yet the King is still finding a way to have fun on the court while trying to turn this Lakers season around. Even amid his record-setting performance against Orlando, James found time to show us his playful side as well, when a Magic player had his goggles knocked off during a play on the baseline.
At 15-13 and currently sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference, I don’t think the Lakers are done, but when I say “struggling,” I mean that relative to where they were projected to be coming into the season. This team is supposed to be one of the favorites to make it to the NBA Finals. They’ve hardly even looked like a playoff team until recently.
I think it’s time for the Lakers, their fans, and even LeBron to give up on Anthony Davis ever becoming “the man” in Los Angeles. Davis is a top-five talent but a number two option on a championship team. I don’t care what Davis averages night to night; he is not a leader, and he’s not going to become one overnight. The Lakers will need him to carry the load sometimes, especially in the postseason, but even that will have to come as he plays second fiddle to James. Davis is hurt too often and lacks that mentality to want to be the best. Davis makes a great Robin, but his makeup isn’t suited for the role of Batman.
Davis missing time only places more of a burden on James’ aging shoulders. That forces LeBron to play longer, as he did yesterday against the Magic, when he logged 37 minutes. That’s more or less his average this season, currently 36.8 minutes per game, which is his highest since joining the Lakers. The Lakers would love to get that number down to 33 or 34, but they can’t afford to rest James too much with Davis out every other week and Russell Westbrook being the odd fit he’s been.
James’ triple-double on Sunday was incredible in a win the Lakers needed over the Magic. But the way things are looking, the L.A. will need many more games like this from James this year, and I don’t know if he still has that in him while playing close to 40 minutes each night. LeBron needs more help if he wants that fifth championship. I just don’t know where it will come from if it’s not already on the roster.