0 2020-03-12 08:13:35
Until He Says Otherwise, LeBron James Still Wears the Crown
After season-defining performances in wins against the Sixers, Bucks, and Clippers, LeBron has the Lakers looking like a force—and himself looking like an MVP contender
Just over an hour before the Lakers and Clippers tipped off on Sunday, LeBron James walked into the Lakers’ locker room sporting the same focused cdth that Avery Bradley had seen on James’s face just a few days before, when he dropped 37 points on the Bucks.“I could just tell he was really into the game,” Bradley said.“It’s like he flipped the switch.He played at an MVP level.”
Jared Dudley noticed that look, too.It was the same one James had worn before he uncorked a 32-point triple-double on the Nuggets ahead of the All-Star break.“He knew how important this weekend was,” Dudley said postgame.“It was a tone-setting type of weekend.”
On Sunday, LeBron scored 28 points and added nine assists and seven rebounds in the Lakers’ 112-103 win over the Clippers.This came just two days after his massive performance against Milwaukee, five days after he dropped a double-double against the Sixers, and a week after he led L.A. past Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.Watching him during the past seven days has been both awe-inspiring and confounding.How, at 35 years old, can he still be the best player in the NBA?How is he able to put his imprint on a moment, a play, a game, better than anyone else?
“I’ve never seen a guy get better at 35 in sports,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game.“He looks stronger, faster, and he’s always been a high IQ.…Probably one of the smartest players to ever play basketball.He beats a lot of people with his brain.”
Kyle Kuzma ended James’s night by crowning the King；
Seconds before the game began, LeBron walked over and saluted Clippers assistant Ty Lue—his former coach in Cleveland—Lue’s colleague Sam Cassell, and Rivers all in succession.This gentlemanly gesture was followed by a ruthless 35-minute performance during which the Clippers had no way to limit, let alone stop, LeBron.He was helped by Anthony Davis’s 30 points and certainly boosted by Avery Bradley’s season-high 24 points and six made 3s, but when the game needed closing, he was the one who shut the door.He guarded Kawhi Leonard on one end of the floor (“He knew that was something that had to be done,” Dudley said) and surgically dissected the Clippers defense on the other.
LeBron made plays by working out of the post, beyond the arc, and eventually by simply taking it to the rim for an and-1 finish with less than a minute left.He skipped, flexed, and yelled like he had just won the Finals, and the Lakers-heavy crowd at the Clippers home game gave him a standing ovation:
“He just dominated both [Friday’s and Sunday’s] games and helped close them out,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.“He was unbelievable.”
The picture-perfect moment was the ideal punctuation to a weekend that not only gave the Lakers their two biggest wins of the season, but elevated LeBron into an MVP conversation that didn’t really exist as recently as two weeks ago.Giannis Antetokounmpo still holds the pole position, but now that LeBron has led the Lakers to two loud wins over the two teams that might stand in the way of his fourth ring, the tide has started to shift.With Giannis out because of a sprained knee, the Bucks lost to the Suns on Sunday; if they lose in Denver on Monday, Milwaukee could have as many losses as James’s Lakers.
LeBron’s emotion on that game-sealing play and his overall performance in these last two contests has brashly communicated how important these types of wins are to him—even if his words try to downplay it at times.It’s also evident how crucial it is to him that we see the journey, not just the end result.Unlike Kawhi, who emerges from the offseason a mystery, LeBron has made it his brand to show his work.
“I put a lot of work into my game this offseason, I put a lot of work into my rehab, even when I was shooting a movie,” LeBron said postgame.“If you follow me on social media, I was in the weight room at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, making sure I was preparing myself for this season no matter what was going on.”
In what is supposed to be the twilight of his career, LeBron is carving out a unique space for himself.Throughout his years in the league, he has shown us that he’s beatable, fallible, human.He has watched teams steal titles away from him, and players take what he feels like should have been his MVP awards.And yet somehow he has turned his valleys into stepping stones for new, more impressive peaks.After all these years, he is still the most inevitable force in the league.
To those of us watching from afar, that concept is perplexing.Physically, it doesn’t make sense that a player who has played over 48,000 regular-season minutes can still look as potent, fresh, and dominant as LeBron does.In Year 17, James is still averaging 25 points and nearly eight rebounds a game while also posting a career high (and league-leading) 10.6 assists per contest.The longer LeBron plays, the more it feels like someone should have caught up by now—and physically, they have.Mentally and tactically, though, perhaps no one ever will until he calls it quits.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” Danny Green said after LeBron’s performance against the Bucks on Friday.“After the game, it’s like, ‘This guy is 35 years old.’”
For those watching him up close, those who see the time and effort he puts in, this is less mystique and more like a math equation.“He is still the first one in the gym, the one most in the weight room, taking care of his body and doing massages, anything it takes,” Dudley said.The work goes in, the product comes out.And even though age and wear and tear require pacing, especially ahead of the playoffs, when the games call for him to exert the kind of impact only he can, he still delivers.
“You know the hashtag #WashedKing,” Dudley said.“This is a generation where everyone sees social media.Sometimes the greats need motivation, and I think LeBron does a good job of putting his foot down.[Other stars] are the next faces of the league, not the faces of it.It’s still him.”
原文作者: Paolo Uggetti原文链接: https://www.theringer.com/nba/2020/3/8/21170955/lebron-james-lakers-clippers-nba-mvp-race译者：橙味好