The Los Angeles Lakers secured a playoff berth after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in on Tuesday. There were plenty of heroes for the Lakers in that contest, including LeBron James, who finished with 30 points.
Even so, Kevin Garnett and Stephen Jackson offered an intriguing take about James after the game, saying that he looked gassed. Garnett took it a step further by implying that the four-time MVP has a lot of expectations riding on him because he is playing in Kobe Bryant’s shadow.
Stephen Jackson argues that scouting reports are starting to work on LeBron James
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) April 16, 2023
“I don’t wanna harp on this too much, but it was a disconnect that I caught,” the Hall of Famer said about James. “It wasn’t a desire. It wasn’t a, ‘Go get this ball.’ L.A. used to — Kob (Kobe Bryant) going to get the ball, playing hero. I hate to say that, but I’m calling a spade a spade. That’s the shadow he in. And he didn’t go get it. He didn’t have that drive.”
Playing for a franchise as decorated as the Lakers certainly comes with some pros and cons. Of course, the prestige of wearing the purple and gold is an unparalleled honor. But on the other hand, there are also heavy expectations brought about by playing for the same organization that countless legends did.
Still, James probably knew that when he joined the organization in 2018.
One could argue that Garnett should cut the 38-year-old some slack, considering that he is playing in his 20th season and coming off an injury that saw him miss 13 consecutive contests between February and March.
Furthermore, it has already been well-documented that James’ and Bryant’s approaches to the game significantly differ. The iconic shooting guard preferred to take matters into his own hands, displaying a killer instinct that rivaled that of Michael Jordan. On the other hand, James is known to look for the best shot possible in crunch time, even if that means deferring to teammates.
But Garnett and Jackson may have a point regarding the 19-time All-Star’s performance against Minnesota in the play-in. With the No. 7 seed on the line, there were moments where James didn’t look like his best self.
He may have totaled 30 points on efficient shooting, but he had a team-worst plus/minus of -19. Moreover, James had crucial misses and turnovers in the fourth period and failed to record a single point in overtime.
Fortunately, the Lakers still got the win and a date with the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. The team has plenty of work to do. Hopefully, James is up to the task.