There has been a lot of talk over the last few days about the health status of LeBron James. Is he fine? Is he playing on one leg? No one seems to know for sure, but when asked at practice on Friday about his status, James reiterated that he’s healthy enough to play when the Lakers begin their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns this weekend.
“Oh I’m good. Ready to go on Sunday,” James said.
That’s good news, because James has clearly been at least somewhat hampered as he looks to return from the high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the most time of his professional career this season. But it at least sounds like he hasn’t experienced a setback, even if he’s still not as ready as he’d like to be heading into the playoffs.
“Obviously I had a lot more time to rev up and build my body over the course of the season in the past, and with the six and a half, seven weeks or whatever I had to sit out, I didn’t get an opportunity to rev up and sharpen my sword,” James said. “Obviously for me it was very stressful watching our games knowing how much I can help the ball club and not actually being out there. So as far as like a mental break, I didn’t get much of that because I just wanted to be available to my guys and I couldn’t.
“But I’m ready. I’m prepared mentally. My game will continue to improve as the games go on,” James said. “Hopefully we can play more than four games, and that will get my game going more and more and more.”
James’ co-star, Anthony Davis, also feels like the entire team will improve as the playoffs move along and they get more games together.
“We’re confident in our group no matter how many games we’ve played together. We’ve got a lot of individual players who can hold their own and have been able to progress and learn each other from the start of the season,” Davis said. “Obviously the more games we play with each other, the more we’re able to learn more about each other and get familiar with each other.”
To Davis and James’ point, the two stars have only got to play 601 minutes together over 27 games during the regular season, which ranks 23rd on the team among pairings. For context, last season James and Davis were the Lakers’ most frequently used duo, playing 1,455 minutes together over 59 games.
That issue is a microcosm of the Lakers’ collective lack of familiarity. The team only has four two-man pairings to play more than 900 minutes together, while last season they had nine such groups. This season they only had one five-man unit play more than 100 minutes together, their original starters of Marc Gasol, Dennis Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Davis and James. Last season they had three different lineups cross that threshold, and a fourth played more than the Lakers’ second most-used lineup this season.
The point is, whichever way you slice it, this team has less continuity than last year’s champs. Still, Davis thinks the talent this season’s roster has can make any concern about their lack of time together moot.
“Just because we haven’t had many games with each other, we’re not a team that’s scared or not confident in ourselves,” Davis said. “We’re a confident group, no matter who is on the floor or how much time we have with each other. We’re continuously learning each other and figuring it out on the floor, and going to continue to do it while getting wins.”
James is clearly just as sure of himself, even if he’s more understated about it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for me,” James said.
If what’s in store is anything close to his playoff run last season, there won’t be questions about his health for much longer.