Lakers News: LeBron James Talks Defensive Key To Smaller L.A. Lineups

How the Lakers are adjusting to their best players.

Your Los Angeles Lakers have almost totally turned around their season, thanks in large part to the borderline MVP-caliber play of All-NBA L.A. center Anthony Davis.

Davis put forth his best effort this season in an afternoon road win against the Washington Wizards, scoring a whopping 55 points on 22-of-30 shooting, securing 17 rebounds, and blocking three shots.

He has now become the de facto best player on this Lakers team, finally supplanting 37-year-old legend LeBron James, who remains a potent scorer, but not the interior two-way behemoth Davis is capable of being.

For the contest, James had a pretty solid line himself. The 18-time All-Star scored 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting from the floor, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six dimes.

He spoke with reporters in the visitors’ locker room of Capital One Arena postgame about the somewhat surprising two-way success of some smaller lineups of late.

When asked directly about how the Lakers are making their defense work when head coach Darvin Ham opts to go small, surrounding Davis and James with three-guard lineups, James discussed what he believes to be the key to making it work:

“Keep guys in front of us and defensive rebound, that’s always gonna be the most important [thing] when it’s me, AD with [Russell Westbrook], Dennis [Schröder] and Pat [Beverley], or if it’s Schröder, Pat Bev, and either Lonnie [Walker IV] or Austin [Reaves],” James said. “We have to keep guys in front of us and we have to defensive rebound, that’s what’s most important. And I think offensively we’ll be pretty good, because we have enough ball handlers out there, we have a big — well, we have a hybrid that’ll be all over the floor. It’s my job to put guys in position, especially late in games.”

The reality for this forward-deprived Lakers team is that it has currently loaded up its backcourt with solid-if-unspectacular players, so it makes sense that Darvin Ham is trying to give more minutes to his best pieces, despite giving up size on defense. To that end, 6’6″ small forward Troy Brown Jr. was relieved of his starting duties today against Washington so that Ham could make way for 6’3″ Schröder to play in the starting backcourt alongside 6’1″ Beverley.

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