The pressure is on for the Los Angeles Lakers to make the playoffs and LeBron James is more than willing to carry the bulk of the load.
However, he can’t do it all on his own, nor should he be asked to at this stage of his career.
It’s for that reason Josh Hart has called on his team to step up and do whatever is necessary to make sure the Lakers are one of the 16 teams playing in the postseason this year.
“We’ve just got to do our role to the best of our ability. I think when we do that and we’re clicking on all cylinders and we’re healthy, the few games that we were this season, I think we kind of showed where we could be as a team,” Hart told reporters after the team’s practice on Wednesday.
“Obviously we’re a little younger team-wise. Bron is one of the few guys on this team that’s been through everything, so obviously we kind of put a lot on his shoulders, but it’s time for us to grow up and do our roles to the best of our ability,” Hart continued. “Whether that’s scoring, whether that’s defensive rebounding, no matter what it is, just doing that. And if we do that, I think we have a good chance.”
Hart rediscovering his role is going to be especially crucial for the Lakers going into their final 25 games of the season.
After a red-hot start to his second campaign, Hart’s production has plummeted. In the 15 games leading up to the NBA All-Star break, Hart averaged 5.3 points per game on 35.9 percent shooting from the field (and 25 percent shooting from behind the arc). Typically he’s able to find ways to affect the game when he’s not scoring, but he hasn’t even been able to do that, as evidenced by his -4.4 box plus-minus during that stretch.
Luckily, most (if not all) of his problems were aided by the All-Star break. Not only did he get the time he needed to treat his knee tendinitis, but James, who has been key to Hart’s success this season, is also feeling healthier.
In the 551 minutes James and Hart have played together this season, they’ve posted a net rating of +6.9, which is the second-highest net rating of any two-man lineup including James. Tyson Chandler and James have the highest (+7.9).
If the Lakers are going to sneak into the playoffs, James is going to need all of the help he can get from Hart and the rest of the team’s young players. Hopefully they show they’re up — and “grown up” enough — for the challenge on Thursday.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Christian on Twitter at @RadRivas.