Paul Pierce says LeBron James is hogging the ball too much: ‘He needs to take a step back’

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Pierce said it’s time for LeBron James to take a step back for the Los Angeles Lakers, using two victories over title contenders without the superstar in the lineup as his proof.

“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.”

The hot take almost directly contradicts what Pierce said earlier this month about his longtime rival. The former Boston Celtics star praised James for playing through injury throughout his career as the 39-year-old has dealt with an ankle issue during the 2023-24 campaign.

Despite that, James in his 21st NBA season has played in 59 games so far this season, his second-most appearances in his six seasons with Los Angeles. He also remains very productive, averaging 25.5 points, 8.1 assists and 7.2 assists per game.

As Pierce pointed out, since the All-Star break last month, James is averaging 28.6 points, 9.5 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game, shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point range. But the Lakers are just 5-5 in those 10 games James has played in since then, including two critical losses to the Sacramento Kings.

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

He was not in the lineup for a Lakers win against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 8, when Russell erupted for 44 points in a 123-122 victory. Before the break on Feb. 1, James did not play in a 114-105 win at the Celtics, when Austin Reaves led Los Angeles with 32 points.

James is coming off a 40-point game himself, equaling his season-high in a 128-121 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. He also has played more than 37 minutes in each of the past three games.

But after losing two in a row, the Lakers are in 10th place in the Western Conference with a 36-32 record. Los Angeles is three games out of sixth place heading into a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

With Lakers big man Anthony Davis questionable on Monday because of an eye injury, James may have to step up instead of step back, at least for now. With less than a month to go and just 14 games left in the regular season, it also may not be reasonable for him to get some rest or alter his playing style at this juncture.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.