In his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James played in just four overtime games. In the last five days, he’s played in three.
To be more specific, he’s played 130 minutes in the three consecutive overtime games the Lakers have played this week, which is the most minutes he’s played since the 2018 NBA Finals, when he averaged 44.7 minutes per game through four games. He’s averaged 43.3 minutes per game over the last three games.
Following the two previous games the Lakers played before their rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, James maintained that he wasn’t tired. In fact, on Monday, he said that all he’d need is a warmup to go another round or two.
James got the night off from media availability from his head coach, Frank Vogel, on Wednesday, but his message still got through via his teammate, Dennis Schröder — or as James likes to call him, “Dennis the Menace.”
“He told me that he liked playing in three overtime games,” Schröder said. “He’s got to get in shape, he said. He’s liking it.”
Whether or not that’s how James actually feels, his attitude has had a positive effect on his teammates.
“You heard it from him: being tired is just in your head,” Kyle Kuzma said on Wednesady. “If you put your mind to it, you don’t really see yourself getting too tired. That’s always been his mindset through his unbelievable career and that dude’s a beast. If he says he’s not tired and doesn’t get tired, he doesn’t get tired.”
James definitely didn’t look tired against the Thunder on Monday, at least not when the game was on the line. In the fourth quarter, James scored 10 points, including the 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime. Then, with 3.3 seconds left in overtime, James disrupted Kenrich Williams’ inbound pass to Al Horford, which prevented them from getting a good shot off before the game clock expired.
The Lakers won 114-113, and James ended the game with 25 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals.
“He made several defensive plays, to be honest with you,” Vogel said of James. “He’s really leading that charge, taking the matchup of Horford in certain situations, and I’d say Wes Matthews had two great defensive stops on Horford’s post ups as well. But that’s what ‘Bron does. ‘Bron does it on both ends sides of the ball.
“That’s why he’s probably going to be this year’s MVP: carrying the load offensively and quarterbacking the defense — the No. 1 defense in the league — and taking these tough assignments and making these plays down the stretch. He’s playing terrific.”
Vogel said he and his coaching staff will continue to evaluate James’ work load on a game-to-game basis, but from what James has told him — and everyone that’s willing to listen, apparently — he feels good. Going strictly based off of his play this season, it would be hard to argue against him.