After the Lakers finished their 119-110, overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, LeBron James made something known during his post-game interview with Doris Burke: He’s heard every single person who said he was washed up, and for the second time now, he admitted he’s using their doubt as fuel this season.
“After the injury last year on Dec. 25, I wasn’t myself just because (my) groin wasn’t allowing me to be explosive or have quick-twitch plays, which I’m very good at. I heard it all. I heard it all, from ‘year 17, is this the last that we’ve seen of LeBron and the fashion that he plays? And then defensively, he’s not very good defensively.’
“But you can’t single me out. There will never be a possession where a coach or a teammate or a player on an opposing team will single me out defensively because I’m in tune with that side as well. We’ve got a lot of guys that play the defensive side, and it’s important for me to be on that side as well and take that challenge just as much as the offensive end.”
LeBron finished the game with 39 points on 56.5% shooting (I wish he made that final free throw to make it 40), 16 assists, 12 rebounds, 1 block, and 4 steals, and became the oldest player ever (34) to post a 30-10-15 game, according to ESPN. But LeBron has not only been playing great on the offensive end of the court, but also the defensive end, a pleasant surprise to start this season.
Last year, LeBron averaged a defensive rating of 107.6, ranking 10th best on the team. This season, he’s averaging a defensive rating of 98.6. Of course it’s only been five games and a big factor there is also the Lakers’ much-improved team, but the eye test shows that James’ on-court production has overall been better on that end of the court. He finished the game with a team high 4 steals, 1 block, and a team high Net Rating of 18.1. Not only that, but he even made some history.
Per Lakers media relations, "LeBron James is the first player to total at least 39 points, 12 rebounds, 16 assists and four steals in a single game, since steals became an official stat in 1973-74."— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 2, 2019
So suffice to say LeBron has been backing up his talk with his play. It’s been fun for us to watch, and it has to be pretty scary for the opponents to see the version of LeBron that just ran roughshod over the Mavericks, highlighted in my latest video:
Now, is that going to happen? It’s unclear, but the Lakers don’t need LeBron to be an All-Defensive player, they just need him to be a reliable defensive player, which is what he’s currently doing. LeBron is currently averaging 1.4 steals per game (tied for 1st) and 0.6 blocks per game (4th on the team). He’s also been making all the right rotations on defense this season, something that many fans and analysts alike felt he struggled with last year.
LeBron didn’t need the extra motivation this season, but with everything he’s heard about his play over the summer, he’s going to use it as fuel anyways. A game after Davis finished with 40 points and 20 rebounds in three quarters, LeBron finished with 39 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds, and 4 steals. This is really the start of something special Laker fans, so enjoy it. With these two, this won’t be the only time this year that we’re literally witnessing history on a nightly basis.