The Los Angeles Lakers are 2-6 since coming back from the All-Star Game break. And what’s the common theme in those two wins? That’s right. LeBron James dropping 50+ points against the Warriors and now the Wizards. He became the only 37-year-old player or older to do so against the Warriors, with The King now just padding that statistic.
His 50 points last night propelled him to become tied with Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo with the highest points per game in the league. If LeBron ended up winning the scoring title, he’d become the oldest to do so, besting one Michael Jordan who did it when he was 35-years-old.
After (another one of) his historic performance, LeBron talked with reporters on wanting to give Lakers fans “something to cheer about”. In doing so, he seemed to sort of take one of his patented passive-aggressive shots at one Russell Westbrook, who recently aired out very emotional (and at least partly valid) complaints about the way he and his family have been treated by fans and the media this year.
LeBron says he wanted to give Lakers fans "something to cheer about" when asked about the crowd energy tonight.
"The Laker faithful know if bad basketball is being played, and they know if good basketball is being played. They have a right to respond any way they want."
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 12, 2022
LeBron has not publicly expressed support for Westbrook in regards to Westbrook’s comments earlier in the week.
Who knows if the above part is intentional on LeBron’s part, and who knows if Westbrook even cares that he hasn’t done so. But still, players like Dejounte Murray and Stephen Curry have gone out of their way to publicly express their support. Hell, even the Lakers’ local “Chop wood, carry water” spirit animal Kent Bazemore expressed his support for Russ on Twitter. LeBron obviously knows the weight of any words he speaks, so he knows how much public support for Russ would go towards people’s views of Russ changing. Now, whether LeBron’s support would be for better or worse change, that remains to be seen.
But either way, the above makes it interesting that when Westbrook was asked to talk about LeBron’s two 50+ point games in the past week, he didn’t really go out of his way to sing his praises like say Frank Vogel did.
Russell Westbrook on LeBron's recent scoring nights: pic.twitter.com/KqefcbTxKN
— 🏀 (@laughsNball) March 12, 2022
I could also be misconstruing LeBron’s comments as passive-aggressive shots towards Russ. It’s probably more likely that they may be addressing an idea that Draymond Green thought it was “wack” that Lakers fans were booing not even two years removed from the team winning a championship. That idea might be fair… if this 2021-22 team came anywhere close to resembling the 2019-20 squad. Hell, there are only three players on this current Lakers squad that were on the championship-winning team.
And, of course, the Lakers are conditioned to expect success. As LeBron indicated, they know the difference between good and bad basketball. And when that bad basketball comes during a season that had championship-or-bust expectations, then sorry, the boo birds are going to sing and they’re going to be deserved.
We’ll see if there are any follow-up reports and/or leaks from the Los Angeles media regarding this. There seems to be a sort of emotional split happening between LeBron and Russ. Am I reading far too much into LeBron’s comments? Maybe.
But one thing is for certain. LeBron isn’t an idiot when it comes to how people evaluate his words.