LeBron James was spectacular while scoring 51 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to 113-97 victory over the Miami Heat, showing off all of the skills that have made him arguably the greatest player of all time.
Anyone watching the display of James’ seemingly never-waning firepower couldn’t help but be impressed, including — apparently — teammates like Kyle Kuzma that had the opportunity to be on the floor as James ran roughshod over Miami.
Following the win, Kuzma told reporters that his goals were pretty simple once James got going (via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“Just give him the ball and get out the way. He can score with the best of them. We always talk about his facilitating and pass-first mentality, but he could probably average 40 if he wanted to.”
Could James actually do so? James’ highest scoring average ever was the 31.4 points per game he put up during the 2005-06 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it’s also hard to watch the full breadth of his’ powers and not think that if he were focused on nothing else other than scoring 40 points a night that James couldn’t do so.
Scoring that much on a consistent basis has never been James’ M.O., though. It’s why his game against Miami was “just” the 12th 50-point game of his career, and it’s also accurate to say that it’s unfair to expect that type of workload from James consistently in his 16th season.
Kuzma understands that, and he told reporters that it’s on him and his teammates to ensure James doesn’t have to score so much.
“LeBron, he could for sure do this every single night, but it’s going to be tough. He’s got a lot of mileage and we can’t depend on him every single night to score 51 points... It’s all about us developing as young players, and getting the ball in spots where we’re comfortable and open.”
The young Lakers saying they need to pull their own weight has been a theme of late, with Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart calling themselves out for poor overall play and bad defense, respectively.
That’s a good and bad thing, obviously. It’s good that the Lakers’ young core all want to be better, but it’s not ideal that they aren’t playing their best. You can only apologize for making a mistake so many times without fixing it before it starts to seem insincere, a mere muttering of platitudes.
Or as Hart put it in an Instagram post satirizing Kuzma this summer:
Kuzma is right that LeBron can probably carry the Lakers, but he’s also right that the team needs to step up so James doesn’t have to. It’s almost time for the team’s young core to start showing closer to their full potential instead of just apologizing for not reaching it.
We’ll see if they can, but if not, James may just have to shoulder a larger load than he should until help that can pace him arrives.
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.