After watching his team fall out of playoff position while rehabbing a strain in his groin, LeBron James has been forced to up his intensity and engagement a bit sooner than he would like:
“Obviously, we would have loved to have success when I was out, but we didn’t, so this is where we [are] right now,” the Los Angeles Lakers superstar said on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Baxter Holmes. “I’m going to be a little bit different a little bit earlier than I would like to be in previous years.”
Twenty-four hours later, The King put his adjusted attitude on display for a national audience, leading the Lakers to a 111-104 victory over the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. James had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists on 11-of-23 shooting, exhibiting far more consistent edge than he did in any of the four games he played for Los Angeles before the All-Star break.
James doesn’t need his back against the wall or a clean bill of health to demand more from his teammates, but did just that regardless during a timeout early in Thursday’s game, getting into an animated discussion with Kyle Kuzma on the Lakers’ sideline:
Bron trying to keep Lakers engaged on every possession. pic.twitter.com/sOQe2RDUkN
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 22, 2019
Whatever James told Kuzma, it worked. The sophomore forward, fresh off an MVP performance in the Rising Stars Challenge, scored 18 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished five assists while doing an admirable job defending James Harden and consistently making second-effort plays.
Los Angeles is now an even 29-29 with the win, two and a half games back of the cross-arena Los Angeles Clippers for eighth in the Western Conference.