LeBron James made his NBA debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 29, 2003, when he was just a few months after graduating from high school. He showed no fear on the court that night: he scored 25 points, made six rebounds, made four interceptions, and earned nine losing assists at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. But his early confident acting hid what he really felt.
“I will never forget the moment when I was at Arco and for the first time put on the Cavs uniform, this wine and gold, and stepped onto the NBA court. It was just unique, ”he said. “Very unique – and I do not wish this moment to any other athlete, because it was very nervous, I can tell you.”
Four NBA championships and exactly 18 years later – in fact, a lifetime later – James faced the Cavaliers on Friday at the Staples Center. He made a resolute return to the Lakers after missing two games with pain in his right ankle, scoring 26 points in nearly 38 minutes in an sometimes unequal defensive effort that resulted in a satisfactory 113-101 win over Cleveland early in the match. … home rack with four games.
He was surprised to learn that at the age of 36, with 1,314 regular season games and 266 playoff games on his odometer, he had managed to surpass his under 18’s debut performance.
“I’m just trying to cheer up. I’m getting better. It gets better with age, ”he said. “Just like wine.
“It’s just fun. I mean, being able to play the game for so long and playing at the level I can play at is just an honor and a pleasure. And I don’t take it for granted. “
James injured his ankle last Sunday in the Lakers’ home win over Memphis, their first win of the season after two losses. He missed out on Tuesday’s overtime win against San Antonio and their terrible defensive efforts, missing out on a 26-point lead on Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City.
His return on Friday was uncertain, and coach Frank Vogel called James “the right playing time decision” when talking to reporters on Friday morning and again before the game. James said he made his decision around 5:30 or a little later, after having passed several tests and approved by the team’s medical staff and felt good enough to give it a try.
“I can definitely feel it right now, but the adrenaline just goes away,” he said. “But today after the game it seems much better than on Sunday when we played Memphis.”
Losing James, even in such a short span of time as two games, has become a problem for the Lakers, who are still figuring out each other’s tendencies and habits. Their defense, Vogel’s strength, was patchy and disorganized and downright terrible against Oklahoma City. The more time they can work together and develop connections and communication, the sooner they will be able to get out of the mud in which they find themselves.
On Friday, they had lively discussions about playing defensively and keeping the ball during timeouts. Vogel described the discussions as “lively”. Be that as it may, they worked, and in the fourth quarter the Lakers held the Cavaliers with 16 points. “When we don’t flip the ball, we’re a pretty good team,” James said. “When we flip the ball, it definitely knocks the sails out of us. [sic]”
They are far from where they should have been, but saw their efforts as a sign of progress, despite 22 revolutions.
“It’s every day. It’s every day, ”James said of the coaches looking to improve their defensive play. “We have a lot of guys, a lot of newbies this year, who came from different systems and played in different ways in defense. So we work every day.
“Our film sessions are probably the most important because we have the ability to watch them, clip and watch them in slow motion and say,“ Ok if we did it better ”or:“ This is how we are going to play this particular action. it is what gives us the best possible chance of getting stop after stop after stop. ” And I think that the movie that we watched about the OKC game in the second half, we were able to translate into [Friday] night and keep this team at 42% shooting, which is fantastic. “
James only had three rebounds against the Cavaliers, but had eight assists, four of which in the decisive fourth quarter. Three opening shots by Carmelo Anthony, including a pass to a three-pointer by Anthony, who finally put the Lakers ahead 93-91 with seven minutes and 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Another assist was provided by Anthony Davis during the downtime.
When asked about the benefits of adding Anthony as floor manager and capture and firing specialist, James was ecstatic. “Threat. He’s a sniper, as we call guys in our league who don’t need a lot of airspace to deal with this because of his quick trigger,” James said. [Westbrook] and AD to do our pick and roll magic when you have guys like Melo and guys who take the floor and keep the guys honest around the perimeter. “
The crowd raved about the bond between Anthony and James, suggesting they would bring the Lakers back to the top of the NBA standings. Before that can happen, the Lakers must reclaim their reputation as a diligent defensive team. If they succeed in realizing it, the opportunities will be intriguing, like that nervous kid who played his first NBA game 18 years ago and still shows everyone how to do it.