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LeBron responds to recent chatter about his game, workload

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The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a decided surge, having won four straight games after last night’s 121-113 victory against the San Antonio Spurs. As the Lakers collected their seventh win in their last 10 games, the storyline was the same: LeBron James did the heavy lifting and set the tone in victory.

He finished with a game-high 42 points (on 15-for-24 shooting) to go with five rebounds, six assists and two steals. Over that 10-game stretch, James is averaging 29.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists and shooting 53.7 percent. Still, James has heard some comments over the past week from Lakers legends Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson — and some comments from Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant — on how he should play his game.

 

LeBron James dominates as the Lakers drop the Spurs in Los Angeles.

After last night’s win, though, James was asked if his performance was fueled at all by the talk surrounding him of late.

“No, for what? I’m past the [taking things] personal stage,” James said after the game. “I can do whatever. I can have a huge workload, I can have a not so huge workload. … It doesn’t matter for me. What’s most important is seeing my teammates make huge shots in the fourth quarter. … That’s what’s most important to me. I can care less about the narrative about me. It doesn’t matter. I’m a staple in this game.”

In a story published by Bleacher Report on Wednesday, both Durant and now-Lakers teammate Tyson Chandler both were quoted about why some star players might perhaps be hesitant to play alongside James. Per Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, Chandler said: 

 

NBA TV discusses Bleacher Report’s recent story about LeBron James.

“If you’ve got LeBron, you’ve got to make it all about LeBron. You’ve got to be able to [coexist] with that and fit with that. Who are you, where are you in your career, and how do you fit in? It’s a sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice for winning.”

Chandler made the comments to Bleacher Report a few days before he was waived by the Phoenix Suns and then signed with the Lakers. 

As for Durant, he said. “It depends on what kind of player you are. If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he’s not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open.

“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi [Leonard], trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense. Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don’t need another guy.”

Chandler said he spoke to James about his comments to Bleacher Report, which he felt were taken out of context.

“What I said was, when you have a great player like LeBron, I said I’ve only played with one other player like that, and like Dirk, you have to make it about them because of how talented they are and where they can lead you,” Chandler told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “And of course all of that wasn’t put in. It was just, ‘When you have a player like LeBron you got to make it about LeBron,’ or something like that. However it read. But that wasn’t the full statement.

“And I just think I don’t like when negative articles come out like that, even if it’s not about my teammate, but about my teammate, somebody who carries teams the way he does, I just think we’re nitpicking. We’re trying to find something negative about something that’s great instead of just leaving it alone.”

As for Durant’s comments, James said he wanted to instead see what the reigning Finals MVP said in full.

“I would love to see the whole transcript of what was asked of him, the context it was asked of him, why it was asked and the whole thing,” James said. “So I’m not gonna comment on it because I don’t know the whole thing. That would be stupid on my part. I’m a veteran.”

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Blogtable: Who got snubbed on the All-NBA teams?

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The 2018-19 All-NBA teams were announced Thursday. Who got snubbed? 

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Steve Aschburner:  Seeing as how I voted for the All-NBA teams, I can’t rightly label someone a snub unless they made my ballot but didn’t make the first, second or third team, right? Wouldn’t make sense. There’s only one guy who qualifies then: San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge. He was one of the six forwards I chose — but LeBron James took his spot. Sorry, but I don’t think you qualify as “All-NBA” when you play only 55 games and work for a team that ends up in the lottery. Aldridge is a leader for the playoff perennial Spurs who gets taken for granted by being his same steady self season after season. He also loses style points as a throwback, a master of the 2-pointer rather than 2019’s beloved 3-pointer.

Shaun Powell:  This certainly sounds like a novel concept, but here goes: How about nobody? Klay Thompson didn’t take it well but there are always borderline cases that could fall either way. Should he have been on instead of Kemba Walker because the Warriors win? We should penalize Kemba because of the poor moves by management, then?

 

The Starters chime in on who was the biggest All-NBA snub in 2018-19.

John Schuhmann:  The 15 guys are the same 15 that I had on my ballot (though not necessarily in the same order), so the answer is nobody! Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson and Karl-Anthony Towns all deserved consideration; Parsing out the third-team selections certainly wasn’t easy. The lack of team success definitely hurt Beal and Towns, while Thompson just didn’t have as good a season as he had the previous couple of years. I gave the edge to Kemba Walker, given how much he carried his team (which was better than Beal’s).

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Blogtable: Who’s feeling most pressure for Lakers these days?

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Who’s feeling the most pressure in L.A. right now: Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka or Frank Vogel? 

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Steve Aschburner:  Process of elimination says Rob Pelinka. Frank Vogel has no pressure as coach. He’s into his annuity contract now, having already banked more cash than he ever imagined he’d earn in his working lifetime. And he’s a relative babe stepping into a forest of well-known dysfunction, with assistant coach Jason Kidd ready for his close-up as Vogel’s particular Big Bad Wolf. No one’s going to blame him for anything. Jeanie Buss is taking some hits now over pretty obvious mismanagement of personnel, if not business operations, but she owns the company. Pelinka has been outed by Magic Johnson, who remains an icon to Lakers fans, and Kobe Bryant’s reflected glory won’t save him from whatever goes wrong next. He has run out of cover and he’s on the clock.

 

How can the Lakers recover in the wake of all their offseason drama?

Shaun Powell:  Let’s break this down into a matter of who-is and who-should. Ron Pelinka is feeling most of the heat because Magic Johnson threw him on the griddle and Pelinka isn’t well regarded by a segment of the league’s GMs. But Jeanie Buss should be feeling heat because this is her creation — however, as the owner, she can turn invisible and leave Pelinka and Frank Vogel to deal with the fallout.

John Schuhmann: I don’t know if Jeanie Buss is feeling pressure, because the Lakers are still the Lakers making a ton of money, despite the six-year playoff drought. But success and failure in this league starts at the top and it appears that Buss hasn’t been able to recognize the need for a entirely new and more robust basketball operations structure led by an experienced executive that will empower the people around him. Now, because she hasn’t made the proper changes, it’s on Pelinka to upgrade the talent around LeBron James and Vogel to make the most of whatever talent he’s been given come September. Between those two, there’s currently more pressure on Pelinka, given the lack of shooting on the existing roster.

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Blogtable: Would Bucks or Raptors match up better in Finals vs. Warriors?

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Who would match up better against the Warriors in The Finals: Raptors or Bucks?

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Steve Aschburner:  Toronto. And I thought this way even before the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead in the East finals Thursday night. Milwaukee’s defense is stretched thin enough against Toronto, so the Warriors’ firepower would be a huge problem. Especially when Kevin Durant returns, Golden State has defenders with whom it can swarm Giannis Antetokounmpo, even more effectively than the Raptors have or the Celtics (briefly) did. Draymond Green locked onto Giannis for four to seven games? Come on, that also would be a problem for Milwaukee. Frankly, I’m not sure either of East finalists would get the edge at even one spot in a position-by-position breakdown. The only reason I think the Warriors won’t sweep is, they’ll have to deal with some shifting of gears once Durant and maybe DeMarcus Cousins come back. Might cost ‘em a game.

Shaun Powell:  Go with the Bucks because not only do they have an elite player, they shoot 3-pointers and play decent defensively. Both teams match up well if the Warriors aren’t bringing Kevin Durant. Neither, however, matches up well if they are.

John Schuhmann:  Despite their performance in Games 3-5 of the Eastern Conference finals, it’s probably the Bucks. They’re bigger and they have a lot of guards that can defend Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (to some degree of success, at least). Their defense does allow a lot of 3-point attempts, but they are good at forcing the right guys to shoot those 3-pointers. In fact, the 7.6 3-point attempts per 36 minutes that Curry averaged against the Bucks was his lowest rate against any opponent. Of course, Toronto’s defense has been fantastic throughout the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard has taken things to a new level, and the Raptors would also have a puncher’s chance against the champs.

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