There have been midseason concerns about LeBron James and his teams before.
Every time those concerns reared themselves in the past eight years, James has found a new gear that blazed a path to the NBA Finals.
This season presents a significantly different circumstance. The 28-29 Lakers don’t have their sights set on the Finals. They’re just trying to make the playoffs.
James making shift to high gear early
That fact has apparently shifted James’ time frame. He told reporters on Thursday that he’s leaving the All-Star break already in high gear, a level that’s usually saved for later in the season and the playoffs.
“It’s been activated,” James told reporters. “My level of intensity has to be [high], unfortunately for me, because I don’t like to do it at such an early time. But it’s been activated.”
LeBron does have a next level
While it sounds like nonsense, James has proven time and time again that he has a second level to his game when the stakes are higher. How much of that he can harness at 34 years old is yet to be seen. Especially considering he’s coming off a groin injury.
“It’s gonna be a little bit different for me, just knowing the position that we’re in,” James said. “For me personally, I haven’t been in this position in a while. Because of my injury, it’s hit our team.”
James missed 18 games after suffering the groin strain on Christmas. The Lakers played poorly in his absence and were hit and miss in his return before the break.
Don’t confuse this situation with LeBron’s in the past
In the past when James’ teams reached high gear, his supporting cast looked much different than what he has with the Lakers. There’s no Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh or Kevin Love wearing purple and gold.
Kyle Kuzma is the closest thing to a No. 2 James has to play with. And while he’s a solid young player, let’s not confuse him as being on the same level as the aforementioned likely Hall of Famers James has run with in the past.
That’s the reason the goal this year is the playoffs. And right now, even that seems a reach.
“That’s the job, that’s our goal,” James said about the playoffs. “It’s been our goal from the beginning of the season, and it’s still our goal. We’re working our tails off to get there.”
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