If LeBron James Can Score 56 Points Every Game, The Lakers Might Be Alright
12:04 PM EST on March 6, 2022
As has been noted here in several places (here for example, not to mention here, and here, and here too), nothing warms the soul quite like enjoying the fetid laundry basket of shattered egos that is the Los Angeles Lakers. They are wedged in a field of suck that actually began nine years ago, took a break for a championship in a bubble that still counts as an actual championship no matter how much you hate them, and as day dawned have a worse record than the New York Knickerbockers.
This reminds us that the Defector staff has an uncanny eye for filth-based basketball, as our members have publicly stated affinities for the Knicks, Kings, Wizards and Pistons. We also have one rogue in Comrade Paez-Pumar, who claims to have a thing for the Heat, and Comrade McQuade is sickly sweet for the Sixers based solely on geographical grounds, and therefore not fandom at all but a psychosexual form of team love based solely on the interstate highway system. A blog must be done on this some day, maybe by Comrade Kahler, who likes the Chicago for Christ's sake Bears.
But we digress. Sometimes the unlovable must be loved, and in this case that would be LeBron James, who finally figured what the Lakers need to stop upchucking concrete chunks wrapped in razor wire—more LeBron James.
James dropped your standard 56-10 double-double Saturday night in a 124-116 beating of the suddenly Rocket-ish Golden State Currys, and James probably would have tripled up if he hadn't finally understood that every time he passes the ball he weakens the nation. He shot 31 times, more than in any game since November of 2018, had three assists, his fewest in any win in the same time span, and he had only one in the final 34 minutes of Saturday's game. That was to Carmelo Anthony for a dagger three with 34 seconds left that made it 122-116; otherwise, he danced alone except for those moments when he had to remonstrate with a teammate for taking up oxygen, space, and decision-making prerogatives that rightly belonged to him.
Watching one player take a game by the thorax until the air dissipates is usually not that compelling; it looks a lot, quite frankly, like Russell Westbrook. But the Lakers, playing without either Anthony Davis or heart had lost four in a row, 10 of 13, and hadn't known the lofty air of life above the play-in line since Dec. 23. They've been bad for nearly a decade, true, but it always seems new when it comes to them, a shining example of brand over brain. You see the uniform and you think, "Hey, they matter," and then you look at the standings and see this damning bit of business from Basketball Reference that tells you that the Lakers are sixth from bottom and ahead of only three of Defector's six beloveds. It doesn't get any more repulsive than that. In other words, yes, more LeBron is not just desirable for the Lakers but absolutely necessary.
To which we hear you saying, "Good. Let 'em fall down on the side of the highway and be eaten by wolves. Let's see if they can lose 22 of their last 19 and catch Oklahoma City." Great, swell, hate what you like. But credit must rise when condemnation loses steam, and LeBron James had 56 on 31 shots. Beat that with an ossified elephant leg.
In fairness, this happened against a Warriors team that still lacks Draymond Green and therefore its will to defend, interest in defending, and understanding the value of stopping the other guys. The best defensive team in basketball when he went down in Game 36 has been 25th in the last 10 games, and while Green's absence does not preclude the rest of them from actually impeding opponents from doing as they wish, it certainly seems to have worked that way. They are now behind Ja Morant in the standings and heading toward Rudy Gobert, Luka Doncic and even Nikola Jokic, if your view of the world is players rather than teams, as it must be when you consider the Lakers.
If you're looking for good news here, the Lakers have 10 of their next 13 games on the road, and one exemplary performance against a team that's defending like the Wizards with a hangover does not put salvation any closer. Davis is still 10 days or so from the dreaded "re-evaluation" of his sprained foot, which probably means that goats will have to be sacrificed to get the gods to return him to health before the playoffs, by which time they may not have playoffs to anticipate at all. They are ninth, but closer to 12th than eighth, and unless James is planning to average 56 points per game from here on out, that seems unlikely to change.
But we feel confident that he will be willing to average 31 shots per game for the foreseeable future. He has waited long enough for the army of AARPsters around him to carry their end of the piano, and has finally concluded, it seems, that he is going to have to finish this job himself.