After starting the season 2-5, the Los Angeles Lakers have pulled themselves out of their early hole and now sit at 9-7, which is only two games out of first place in the completely unpredictable Western Conference as of the time this article was written.
In their last game, a 113-97 victory over the Miami Heat, LeBron James continued his Galactus-like dominance over Eastern Conference competition as he dropped 51 points (on a 72 percent true-shooting percentage) on his former team in route to the Lakers’ fifth win in six games.
The win served as a needed palate cleanser after the team’s sour loss to the Orlando Magic in which the defense squandered 130 points to a middle-of-the-pack offense.
Looking to return to Los Angeles on a positive note, the final stop of the Lakers’ mini three game road-trip is in James’ former location of employment, and his hometown, Cleveland.
James spent 11 seasons with the Cavaliers, who drafted him first-overall back in 2003. James set a new, unprecedented standard for Cleveland sports, and helped deliver the city it’s first ever NBA championship in 2016.
Although a lot will likely be made of James’ return to Cleveland, this time as a Laker, the former Finals MVP seems to be unfazed by his homecoming and the reception he receives from the fans, which he elaborated further on to Joe Vardon of the Athletic:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s negative, because the only thing that matters is what I gave to the city, what I gave to that community, what I’m still giving to that community,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, they have one obligation and that’s to cheer for their team. And I’m not on the team.”
James’ contributions to the city in all aspects have well been detailed and documented, and the reception of the fans will likely be much more courteous compared to his return back in 2010.
With that being said, the Lakers should not take the Cavaliers lightly, even if they are arguably the worst squad in the NBA.
Currently sitting at 2-13, the Cavaliers have been completely lost this season on both ends of the floor. Sporting the fourth-worst offensive rating and the second-worst defensive rating in the league, the Cavs have struggled to find their footing in a post-James’ world.
Yet, with the game being on national television and the added storyline, it is likely that James’ former teammates will raise their effort level and offer up a fight. If they don’t, thankfully for them there is the Incredible Hulk also known as Zion Williamson hanging on a rim somewhere waiting to be drafted.
The Lakers should win this game, but if this season has displayed anything, it’s that nothing has come easy for the purple and gold. Hopefully this one goes exactly like their last game, and not the one prior.
The Lakers will take on the Cavaliers at 5:00 p.m. PST on ESPN. All stats per Cleaning the Glass and NBA.com. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.