LeBron can't explain scoring in his 'strangest' NBA season
LeBron James says injuries and Covid-19 protocols are making this his "strangest" NBA season and he can't explain why he's on pace for his best scoring average since 2010.
The 37-year-old superstar playmaker for the Los Angeles Lakers spoke Saturday on the eve of the 71st NBA All-Star Game at Cleveland, a half hour drive from James's hometown of Akron.
James ranks third in the NBA in scoring at 29.1 points a game, half a point a game behind leader Joel Embiid of Philadelphia.
He's on pace for his top-scoring campaign since averaging 29.7 a game in 2009-10, the seventh and final season of his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I can't explain the groove that I'm in right now offensively. I guess just playing some good basketball," James said. "Just trying to be efficient. I'm not just out there jacking up a bunch of shots."
"I work on my craft. I'm trying to see ways that I can continue to stay in great rhythm and ways I can continue to get better. Even at my age, I'm never satisfied."
The Lakers are off to a 27-31 start to stand ninth in the Western Conference in a campaign where injuries to James and Anthony Davis have nagged the club and Covid-19 protocols have added to the uncertainties.
"Every season has its own mental and physical challenges," James said. "This is the strangest season I've been a part of so far.
"I don't want to just talk about the injuries but Covid protocols. You have guys go out for false positives. You have had guys go out for real reasons. We've had our head coach be out for several games. We've had a little bit of everything."
That has made it tough on James even with his emphasis on fitness to stay among the NBA's top talents at 37.
"It has just been very challenging, very physically and emotionally draining at times," James said. "But that's the NBA season for you.
"If you're not having your mindset on that happening, then you're setting yourself up for failure. I've always kind of known that's going to happen at some point throughout the season."
- 'It's just unbelievable' -
James seeks a fifth consecutive triumph as an All-Star captain when Team LeBron faces Team Kevin Durant in Sunday's showdown of elite talent.
"I'm extremely happy to be here," James said. "I remember in '97 when the last All-Star Game was here, I was 12 years old. Me and my friends wishing we could come up here to Cleveland and to see the likes of Mike (Michael Jordan) and all those guys that were in that All-Star Weekend."
Those friends and their families were playing on the All-Star practice court while James recalled seeing the late Kobe Bryant and other superstars since he began his NBA career in 2003.
"I remember seeing Kobe, his rookie year, win the Dunk Contest... so to be here 25 years later is a remarkable thing. It's pretty cool," James said.
"To sit here 25 years later doing what I love to do, dreaming about what I love to do, believing in what I wanted to be, it's just unbelievable."
James won't be trying to play any extra minutes because he's back in Cleveland, but he doesn't want friends and family to leave without some special memories, either.
"I've been a part of quite a few of these games, so definitely want to be smart about my minutes," James said. "I'm not trying to burn out during the All-Star Game.
"But at the same time I'm going to give the fans a little bit of something because this is what it's all about."