LOS ANGELES – For the first time in his 16-year career, LeBron James will start the 2018-19 campaign as the oldest player on his team. The newest mega-star for the Los Angeles Lakers is not only on the verge of tackling an 82-game season with a core of relative NBA toddlers, but the 33-year-old is also expected to play at an accelerated pace suited for the young, spry high-flyers.
And after two preseason games in the books, James says coach Luke Walton’s up-tempo pace is the right call for the personnel on this roster.
“You see those young legs out there,” James told Yahoo Sports. “We would be stupid not to utilize that as a strength. That’s just good coaching.”
Last season, the Lakers were tied for second in pace of play, yet the results have been mixed thus far.
But during Tuesday’s narrow loss to the Denver Nuggets, one possession late in the second quarter illustrated what this Laker squad is capable of when pushing the ball.
Rajon Rondo corralled a defensive board and hit a sprinting James who was a few feet ahead. James dribbled up the middle of the floor, and once he approached the top of the key, Ingram circled around him. James, without looking, bounce-passed the ball behind him and Ingram gathered it and proceeded full speed toward the rim, causing two Nuggets defenders to take the wrong angle.
Ingram drew three defenders his way and he hit JaVale McGee with a no-look pass that led to a sneaky quick one-handed dunk. The sequence took all of 16 seconds.
“[Ingram’s] got the juice,” James told Yahoo Sports. “He’s going to be a special player.”
“… Playing fast doesn’t mean shooting the first available shot,” James told Yahoo Sports. “We want to speed up the tempo to get a great shot and be under control. That will all come. That’s what the preseason is for.”
The four-time league MVP has logged only 30 minutes this exhibition season, and it’s anticipated that his workload will be reduced further by way of minimal minutes and games off in order to preserve him for the upcoming rigors of the regular season.
It was nearly four years ago that it appeared James’ reign as the league’s premier basketball player was in jeopardy. He suffered massive back spasms during the 2014-15 season and took a sabbatical for treatment in Miami that cost him eight games.
With the exception of the 2011-12 lockout year, that season included the fewest amount of games James played.
Walton is now asking James not only to stay with the herd — which will eventually include Lonzo Ball, 20, who is recovering from a knee injury — but on most occasions to be in front of it.
And that doesn’t seem to be asking too much of James.
“I feel good out there. I’m good. I haven’t had issues [with my back since then],” James said. “I’m just trying to get everyone involved right now and make sure everyone is on the same page. That’s all. We’ll be in good shape.”
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