(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
LeBron Fielding Questions
LeBron James has done thousands of press sessions since his rookie year in 2003, and he’s very good at them. There’s a certain art form to the question and answer process, and James is an expert.
I’m not sure if there’s a basketball question he hasn’t heard before, and he’s among the best at distilling both the more complex and simpler points out to those listening.
After Tuesday’s practice, coming after an off day following L.A.’s 3-game home winning streak, we transcribed some of his responses to media questions, and included some of our own follow-up thoughts:
On the biggest reason they’ve won three straight to improve to 14-9:
James: "Defensively we’ve been in tune, and offensively we’ve been playing together. Besides the turnovers, which we want to get better at – that’s always a topic of conversation and point of emphasis for us, but we’ve been defending and we’ve been playing together."
Mike Trudell: After rankings just 20th in defensive efficiency through the first nine games of the season, the Lakers have climbed all the way up to 7th (106.1) with their strong run on that end since. On the other hand, L.A. ranks 27th in turnovers per game (16.1).
On if the defense is sustainable:
James: "This is what we preach around here every day. So it has to be sustainable. It needs to become the norm, and it is the norm for us now."
MT: James was asked if the defensive improvement coincided with the pickup of Tyson Chandler, and while he said that wasn’t the only thing, he acknowledged it certainly helped, and kept the defensive paint presence strong when JaVale McGee was out (L.A. were playing small with either Kyle Kuzma, Michael Beasley or LeBron at center, and giving up a lot of points … though they were also scoring more and playing faster).
On why they’re heavy in turnovers:
James: "We just gotta be more careful with the ball, that’s all. Sometimes you’re going to have turnovers where you’re actually trying to make the right play. Sometimes you can make turnovers by being too unselfish. And then you have some of them that are just careless and unforced. It’s a combination of a lot of things, but I love where we’re at. I love where we are, and where we’re thinking about passing the ball and getting everybody involved, so that’s not a problem."
On what he likes that the team is doing:
James: "Winning. We put the work in, and that’s the reason why we’re winning. Every day, we come out here and get each other better. We critique each other when guys are not doing their job, from the top to the bottom."
On his son Bronny (in 8th grade) choosing to wear No. 23 at Crossroads Middle School:
James: "I don’t know how it’s going to last, but it definitely made me feel proud. My kid has his own personality, his own DNA. We share the same name, but he has his own path. It was cool when he came downstairs the other day and showed me he was wearing 23, and then my youngest son came to me and told me he was wearing 6. So, it’s a really good feeling. His first game was yesterday and he had a hell of a game. Both of them play today, so I’m going to catch both of their games. It’s a proud family going on in our household. I’m a proud dad."
MT: LeBron consistently mentioned how much his family factored into his decision to come to L.A., and is frequently referencing his three kids and wife on his various social media platforms, providing a glimpse into their transition from Cleveland. He added that both Bronny and Bryce (his middle child) played flag football in the fall before starting basketball season, and how his young daughter is in gymnastics and takes swimming lessons.
On Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson suggesting the Lakers be wary of LeBron being asked to do too much on the court:
James: "I don’t know what asking me to do too much is, to be honest. I just play my game. I understand the logic behind it. I understand what Magic and Kobe are saying, because we want to continue to grow the young guys. We want to see how much our young guys can grow to be the best they can be. I mean, Magic and Kobe know who I am. I know who I am. They know what they’re going to get outta me. You know what you’re going to get out of me, every game. Am I going to play well every game, am I going to shoot the ball well? No, but you know who I am, and when it’s really, really, really money time, you know who’s going to be there. So, we got guys that we just want to continue to develop and get better and better just from experience, and they haven’t had a lot of experience. People are trying to blow it out of proportion like, ‘OK why do you have LeBron if you don’t want to use him.’ They don’t understand the logic behind it. But it doesn’t matter … you guys asked me the other day like, ‘Do you feel better after playing 30 minutes compared (to) if you played 40 minutes.’ No. I work myself all year round to get in tip top shape all year round. I don’t stop. I can do whatever. I mean, I played a Game 7 in the Finals and I damn near played every minute of it. Last year I played every single game. You can kinda slice it how you want it. I understand what Magic and Kobe are saying, and we have to continue to develop these guys. Because if we don’t, long term, what does that do for our franchise?"
MT: That question LeBron referenced about him playing 30 minutes instead of 40 came from me, after Sunday’s win against Phoenix in which he sat during the fourth quarter since the Lakers were up 20. I was trying to get at whether it was a good thing for the long run of the season to buy 10 minutes in which he didn’t have to exert himself, but – and he’s been consistent with this question through his entire career – he just doesn’t think like that. He clearly prides himself on always being ready to play. Period. In his words, as a conclusion:
“I want to play 48 minutes a game. Seriously. But that’s not going to happen. It’s not smart on anybody’s behalf. But that’s just the competitive side of me.”