AP – LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were in rare form shortly before the coronavirus pandemic stopped the NBA season, and they’re determined to find it again inside the bubble.
The Lakers had just beaten the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks and the rival powerhouse Clippers in the previous week before the stoppage.
James had played magnificently in both games, bolstering his MVP case and leading the Lakers into the stretch with ample reason to believe they could contend for a championship. “To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time, and the way I was playing, it was definitely a good feeling,” James said.
Four months after the world changed, the Lakers are back at work in Florida’s mostly empty gyms. Almost nothing is familiar in these unprecedented circumstances, but James’ determination to win a title – his fourth, Anthony Davis’ first and the Lakers’ 17th – still burns fiercely.
“Nothing is normal in 2020,” James said. “And who knows if it will ever go back to the way it was? But you make the adjustments and you figure it out along the way. That’s what life is all about.”
James had been dominant in nine games since the All-Star break, averaging 30.0 points, 9.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds. The NBA’s assists leader has been an outstanding facilitator of the Lakers’ offence ever since he arrived last season, and he will step back into that role when the Lakers go back to work next week, starting in a showdown with the Clippers next Thursday.
Davis has remained one of the game’s best big men in his first season on the West Coast, averaging 26.4 points and 9.4 rebounds while blocking 2.4 shots per game and asserting his case as the best defensive player in the NBA.
The evident chemistry between Davis and James extends across the Lakers’ roster, which appears to have suffered none of the potential problems of being a recently assembled superteam. Coach Frank Vogel says his players have returned to work smoothly with a renewed focus partly made possible by the absence of normal life.
“The whole bubble has been a little bit different from what we do, but a lot the same,” Vogel said. “When you’re focussed on what you need to do, you make the adjustments. It will feel a little bit different, but I think once the ball goes up, we’ll be locked in on what we normally do.”
The Lakers were surging toward the top overall seed in the West at 49-14 with a five-and-a-half game lead over the Clippers atop the conference and a game in hand.