Lakers, LeBron James Showing Marked Strides on Defense

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LeBron James
USA Today Sports

Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar LeBron James is crediting improved health and hard work for his drastic improvement on the defensive end of the court, and James isn’t the only one making an impact on defense for the Lakers this season.

“I’m playing injury free. I’m not injured. My quick twitch is back. My speed is back, my strength is back,” James said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

The Lakers put that defense on display in a 103-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, which boosted their record to 5-1 on the season.

“Playing with a torn groin last year — even when I came back it was still partially torn — it was difficult to be able to move and shift like I’m capable of doing that defensively,” James said. “For me, I just take the challenge. I love being challenged. Coach [Frank Vogel] challenged me, AD [Anthony Davis] challenged me, I challenged myself.

“I put a lot of hard work into my offseason by getting my quick twitch, getting my bounce back, getting my speed back, my reaction time back. My mind has always been there. That’s what it’s all about.”

James’ resurgence on the defensive end of the floor has only mirrored what the Lakers team, as a whole, has done.

“Well it’s contagious, and his commitment on that end of the floor has been a great surprise for us in terms of just how proficient he’s been,” Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said of James’ impact. “He’s leading the charge with care factor on that end of the floor. When he’s working that hard and caring that much about getting stops, it carries over to everybody else, and you see it on the floor.”

“Obviously we still have a lot to work on offensively, but we try to make sure that we strive on defense every game,” Davis said. “We want to be the best defensive team in the league, and we’ll be tough to beat.”

“I don’t see it as a role, I see it as my purpose,” Lakers’ center Dwight Howard said. “I think it’s my purpose to go out every single night and play hard defense, trying to block every shot, trying to be in the paint, get a lot of steals, go for loose balls. Whatever I can do for this team, be of service, that’s my mission. I don’t see it as my role, I see it as a purpose.”

“All of us, all of us, with LeBron and AD being the leaders of the team it starts with them,” Howard said. “The first guys on the court it starts with them. The second unit, the Bad News Bears — not the Bad News Bears in a bad way, but they’re going to bring bad news to the other team. That type of bad news. But we come out and you play that hard, tough-nosed defense, it makes it tough for teams to score, then they’ve got to deal with our first unit again.”

It’s a mantra that the Lakers are preaching, and one that is panning out for the Western Conference powerhouse thus far this season.

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