Paul Pierce: LeBron James needs to give up the ball a little more

The Los Angeles Lakers faced two critical games with playoff implications in recent days versus the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, only to lose both contests. As a result, they find themselves in 10th place in the Western Conference, and their lead over the 11th-place Houston Rockets, which is currently at 3.5 games, isn’t necessarily safe.

LeBron James was strangely passive during the Sacramento game. On the other hand, he scored 40 points versus the Warriors. Thirteen of those 40 points game in the fourth quarter, when L.A. was battling from behind and got almost nothing from its other players.

Paul Pierce, one of James’ most fierce rivals early in his career, said on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” that James needs to defer to his teammates more (h/t Lakers Daily).

“He gotta give the ball up a little more,” said Pierce. “Since All-Star break, look at his numbers: 29, nine and seven, 50 percent from the field, 45 from three. It’s not resultin’ in wins.

“When LeBron sat out, who’d they beat? Milwaukee, a contender. D-Lo (D’Angelo Russell) had 40. They went to Boston and got a win without LeBron.”

“I think he’s older, he needs to take a step back,” Pierce continued. “The less he does, the more it’s gonna be for the team. And that’s not a bad thing.”

In general, James has taken at least a bit of a step back this season. He’s averaging 25.5 points a game, which is 3.4 points fewer than last season’s average. In addition, his usage rate is at 29.3%, which is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season.

While the Lakers need to continue to trim his workload and responsibilities, when he’s faced with a situation such as the one he was in during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, he has no choice but to take over. That’s part of a superstar’s responsibilities — he must take things over, almost all by himself, when his team isn’t playing well and his teammates aren’t pulling enough of their own weight.

Fellow superstar Anthony Davis left the game late in the first quarter after getting poked in the eye, which put even more of an offensive burden on James. It likely wasn’t the type of game in which he would’ve been best off deferring to his teammates.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire