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Lakers vs. Thunder Preview: This is LeBron James’ moment

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here — LeBron James is finally set to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s scoring king

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one superstar who can take all the attention away from the fiasco that is the trade deadline, it’s no other than LeBron James. James is about the rewrite history books, as he’s exactly 36 points away from dethroning his fellow Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in NBA’s all-time scoring list. There’s a decent chance that we’re about to witness this incredible milestone against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday or if not, then surely versus the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

This is the moment not only Lakers fans but also the whole association has been waiting for. Abdul-Jabbar, who overtook Wilt Chamberlain on April 1984 (before James was even born) as the league’s all-time greatest scorer, has held the record for exactly 39 years — and that’s about to be snapped by another Lakers legend who potentially could now hold the record forever.

If anything, Tuesday’s primetime match against the Thunder is a celebration of James’ eternal greatness, longevity, and transcendent career. It’s an appreciation for one of the greatest players to ever lace it up (no, we are not going to do the whole GOAT debate today), as he becomes the scoring king in one of his best scoring seasons ever at the age of 38 years old — or should I say 38 years young.

That said, it has been long established that this day and moment would eventually come around, but not how, when, and where. As James surpasses Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387’s points, here are some key factors to look out for:

Will LeBron actually be the NBA’s scoring king by Tuesday?

James, who is averaging exactly 30 points a game this season, hasn’t actually scored more than 28 points in the past week. And given that he’ll be going up against the Thunder on Tuesday, a relatively beatable opponent, one can make the argument that he may not need to put up 36 points — especially if Anthony Davis and the rest of his teammates handle the Thunder from the get-go. Remember, this is an OKC team that’s actually ahead of the Lakers by two games in the Western Conference standings, so it’s just as vital for every Laker to go all out.

So in short yes, whether or not James breaks the record on Tuesday will be determined by how much the team will depend on him to carry the scoring load against Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) and co. LeBron has scored 36 points and more nine times this season and his 10th (if that happens tomorrow) will give him the NBA’s all-time scoring record.

It’ll be interesting to observe how determined James is to break the record on Tuesday based on how aggressive he is from the start. Will he be looking to score? Or do what he’s done best throughout his career which is share the basketball? If James ends up producing less than 36 points then all eyes will be on Thursday against the Bucks.

Can the Lakers win on that night?

Aside from James’ potential historic night, what’s arguably as important is how badly the Lakers need to start winning games. It would indeed be extra special for LeBron to nab a victory while he claims the top spot in the all-time scoring list, and that would pay dividends for this Lakers team, that’s currently two games out from the 10th seed and three from the sixth seed.

There’s no doubt that everyone’s focus will be on every single shot that James attempts on Tuesday, but it’s also the Lakers’ responsibility to keep their composure and eyes on their opponent. This is a young OKC team that they cannot blink on. The pressure and moment (given that it’s a home game as well) is a challenge on their own and one that the Lakers will have to figure out playing through.

Will the trade deadline affect the vibes?

The Lakers failed to acquire Kyrie Irving last weekend, and now one of the biggest concerns around the team is how the locker room reacts to this. It’s ironic that James is about to pass Kareem during the trade deadline week, which is probably one of the most eventful and anxious times for every team’s locker room. But this is just something the purple and gold have to deal with as their cohesion and spirit will be tested in the next coming days. The vibes around the team right now will say a lot about the remainder of their season and will likely play a part in James’ special night.

We’ll see if James finally becomes the NBA’s scoring king on Tuesday and if the Lakers can make it extra sweet with a much-needed victory.

Notes and Updates

  • As mentioned above, the Lakers cannot allow sleep against this OKC team. They’ve been playing really well over the past two months as they’re the only team alongside the Denver Nuggets with a top-10 offense and defense since December. They’ll also be on the back end of a back-to-back stretch as they face the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
  • For the Lakers’ injury report, Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain) is now listed as probable and could make a return to the lineup after being ruled out for the past month. Aside from Reaves, Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) is also listed as probable. As for the soon to be all-time scoring leader LeBron James (left ankle soreness), he is listed as questionable and did not practice on Tuesday but instead got treatment for his foot.
  • While Scottie Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider (G-League Two-Way) won’t be active due to South Bay Lakers duties.
  • Due to playing a back-to-back, the OKC Thunder have yet to release an injury report for tomorrow’s game. But for what it’s worth, Lu Dort (right hamstring strain), Aleksej Pokusevski (left tibial fracture) and their promising rookie Chet Holmgren (right foot surgery) are listed as out.
  • For news around the league, the Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks saga was a grand way to tip off trade deadline week. If you want to read more about that, I suggest you check out our sister site Mavs Moneyball. You can also keep up with the latest intel around the league on our main site here.

The Lakers and Thunder will tip off at 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday. The game will be televised nationally on TNT and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For all the latest heading into the NBA trade deadline, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers trade rumors tracker. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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