When LeBron James signed to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018, he was expected to provide both plenty of production and strong leadership.
Now in his second year with the team, James has shown his level of influence as he told teammate Alex Caruso to return to the bench after he was set to enter a game.
The brief interaction took place during the Lakers’ Nov. 12 win over the Phoenix Suns, when Lakers head coach Frank Vogel attempted to give James some rest during the fourth quarter by inserting Caruso. The tight nature of the contest, which ended with the Lakers winning 123-115, was the strategy behind Vogel’s decision, which was quickly vetoed by James.
“He told Alex to go back to the bench,” Vogel recalled. “Yelled out ‘what are you doing over there at the scorer’s table? Go back to the bench. What’s the matter with you?’”
The 34-year-old James ended up playing 37 minutes against the Suns and finished with 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds on the night. The victory sparked the Lakers’ current four-game winning streak and allowed the team to bounce back from a disappointing home loss two nights earlier.
Despite the fact that James is currently playing in his 17th NBA season and has competed in more than 200 postseason contests, he’s still performing at a high level. He’s averaging 25.0 points, 11.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game, and has played 35 minutes or more in nine of the Lakers’ 13 games this season.
That energized boost in James’ performance during the first month of the regular season likely stems from the fact that he only played in 55 games last season after struggling with injuries for a good portion of the year.
Besides being physically refreshed, James is also highly motivated to help the Lakers not only get back into the postseason, but also make a deep run. After last season’s struggles, James’ critics were quick to say that he was on the decline. However, it’s clear from his early efforts that such conjecture is far from the truth.