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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Lakers’ LeBron James Praises Luke Walton
Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar forward LeBron James is praising former Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton, who is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, when the Kings came in to play the Lakers on Friday.
James says that with all the devastating injuries and the non-stop distractions of the constant trade rumors, Walton “did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances”, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
Walton was the head coach during James’ first season with the Lakers in 2018-2019 and led the team to a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs.
“Throughout everything that was going on, we were two of the guys that just tried to remain positive and patient, even with the circumstances that we had,” James said during shootaround on Friday.
James reflected on the challenges of last season, pointing to key injuries as contributing factors to the disappointing season.
“I mean, we were right where we wanted to be on Dec. 25, went up into Golden State and played against a very good team and had a very good game,” James said. “And then the injury happened and I’m out 6½ weeks.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that, including myself and including Luke. And we were just behind the eight ball. But throughout it all we just tried to remain positive, even throughout with the young guys, with the older guys and whatever the case may be. So I think he did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances.”
“Um, I agree with LeBron,” Walton said. “[There’s] a longer answer and I’ve spent time reflecting on last season, but for now, couple of hours before a game, it is more focused on tonight’s task and our game planning and rotations and things like that.”
Walton is now at the helm in Sacramento, but he talked about how special it is to return to Los Angeles, even on the opposing side.
“It’s always a special place for me to come into this building,” Walton said. “I have a lot of great memories in L.A. It’s a great opportunity playing here and coaching here.”
“LeBron, he’s one of the greatest players of all time if not the greatest,” Walton said. “So I’m sure last year getting hurt, not making the playoffs, I mean, he’s going right now. And this team kind of follows that lead. They’re playing incredibly well. Their defense and offense starts with him. He looks really good.”
Lakers’ Anthony Davis Discusses Debut
Los Angeles Lakers superstar big man Anthony Davis is used to handling the majority of the workload for his team in order to have any success on the court, but after his debut with the Lakers at the Staples Center on Wednesday, Davis is realizing that things are different for him now.
Davis doesn’t have to do everything for his team.
“It takes a load off me,” Davis said after the Lakers’ 126-93 victory over the Golden State Warriors, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It feels good knowing that you don’t have to do much. Everybody has a role, and when you have guys all over the board who can score the basketball, you don’t need to do everything every possession.”
Davis had a solid outing, posting 8 points, 8 assists, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in his first game since spraining his right thumb early during their game last weekend against the Brooklyn Nets in China.
“He has seen multiple defenders for seven straight years in New Orleans. He is able to read the defense. He can create for himself any time,” Lakers’ forward LeBron James said of Davis.
“There are not many guys in our league that can affect the game the way AD does. He can score, rebound and pass. He just does it at a high level.”
“It doesn’t have to always go through LeBron like it has with teams past, and it doesn’t always have to go through AD,” Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said. “Quite frankly, even when those guys are out, I love the role players that we have and their ability to carry the load as well. Whether it’s having two lob threats, and playing the spread game. We’ve got a number of shooters out there that can make you pay when we force help, and there’s a lot of experience on our club, so hopefully the usage and workload will be spread out.”
James is also happy that the addition of Davis will help ease the load on him as well.
“My perspective, personally? It sounds good. It sounds good,” James said. “I saw a stat earlier today where I have 7,000 miles more than Vince Carter or something like that. He’s like seven years older than me.”
‘m born to have workload,” James added. “It is who I am, both on and off the floor.”
“We are just playing together, playing for each other,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a fun year, the way we are moving the basketball, the way we are playing defensively, helping each other out. It is going to be fun. We know it takes all of us to win. We are trying to set a standard right now.”
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Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma Inks Deal with Puma
Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Kyle Kuzma has signed a five-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Puma, according to ESPN’s Nick DePaula.
Kuzma’s deal with Puma is expected to pay out more than $20 million over the life of the contract, and includes additional incentives that could raise the total value of the deal.
Kuzma becomes one of the highest-earning players with Puma and a featured partner with the company.
“The No. 1 thing I was trying to look for was a little bit more control, a little bit more freedom to do certain things. Not to be restricted from an idea standpoint,” Kuzma said. “Having a brand fully commit to me and see that I have visions too — that could work out well for the brand and me as well. Puma was that.”
“The addition of Kyle to our expanding hoops roster is a huge step for our brand,” said Adam Petrick, Puma global director of brand and marketing.
“It kind of just speaks to the day and age we are in,” Kuzma said. “I have the best of both worlds. Pretty talented on the basketball court, but people can really relate to me off the court. From my journey, who I am, and so many different things and the passions that I have — people can relate to it.”
Kuzma landed at Puma after his reps and Nike failed to work out a new contract, and Kuzma and his team were able to ride in the Puma Jet as he traveled back and forth from Los Angeles.
“I don’t think any companies have that,” Kuzma said.
“That was the main thing — the meeting was more about me,” Kuzma said. “It was pretty much, ‘What do you want to do?'”
Kuzma will now have to give up wearing Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike’s, an idol of Kuzma.
“It was tough from the simple fact of how much I love Kobe. Everyone knows that I wear Kobe’s shoes,” Kuzma said. “It was tough, but at the end of the day, I have dreams and goals and I imagine myself being at that type of level in this business.”
Kuzma already has in mind what he wants to do with one of the first themes, pay tribute to the late rapper Nipsey Hustle.
“Ever since that moment, trying to carry on that marathon and that type of symbolism, it kind of meant a lot to me,” said Kuzma, who has a “TMC” flag tattoo on his arm. “I wanted to go to Puma, not only for everything that I’ve got going on, but to do some things within this community like Nip did.”
Kuzma is expected to have a lot of creative input as his relationship with Puma moves forward.
“His performance on the court speaks for itself, but his personality and style off the court fits perfectly with our team,” Petrick said. “He is tuned into the culture around the sport, and we’re excited to collaborate with him as we move into the upcoming NBA season.”
Sponsorship deals are also huge with esports teams, as they rank up millions in new endorsement and partnership venture. Keep track of all the movement, with the latest in esports news, as well as indepth twitch news and up to the minute mixer news as well.
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