Dave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer3 min read
SACRAMENTO — A framed photo of LeBron James sat on the floor next to his locker when he arrived Sunday. An anniversary gift from the Los Angeles Lakers showcases 18-year-old rookie James’ right-handed dunk in his NBA debut 20 years ago against the Sacramento Kings.
Twenty years later, James managed to turn back the clock and deliver a nearly identical breakaway dunk during the Lakers’ 132-127 overtime loss to the Kings.
“It’s special, I’m still doing this, I’m playing the game I love,” James said. “To achieve a breakthrough … there must be some really cool correlations.”
The Lakers also gave away a bottle of wine as part of the celebration – a 2003 vintage from Celler Vall Llach, naturally.
However, if James was going to open it and have a few drinks on the flight back to Los Angeles, he wouldn’t be wallowing in sadness after the Kings lost to the Lakers to drop 1-2 on the season.
“I liked the way we played,” James said after Los Angeles returned to overtime after trailing by 15 points. “We had some moments tonight. We had some really good moments tonight. We just weren’t able to pull it out the way we wanted to.”
James’ night wasn’t perfect by any means. Two of his game-high eight turnovers came in overtime. However, looking at the bigger picture, he finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists on 11-of-19 shooting in his 1,424th career regular-season game — similar to 25 points, if not better. In Game 1, he shot 12-for-20 from the field, had 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, and 2 turnovers, and there’s a lot to be encouraging about when considering James’ chances of leading the Lakers this season. .
Lakers head coach Davin Hamm, who watched his team get off to a 2-10 start last season, is similarly optimistic.
Ham comes after James and Anthony Davis (30 points, 16 rebounds) became the first Lakers teammates to score 25 points and 15 rebounds since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in 2002. “We did a lot of great things tonight,” he said in the same game. “Of course there are things we need to work on. There are things I need to step up on.”
When asked to elaborate, Ham noted that it was his responsibility to address the rotation issues as quickly as possible.
“My rotation, we have to really dig into that,” Ham said. “Looking at it closely, everybody is in rhythm. We have a lot of guys. I’ve played in this league. It’s important when you know when you’re coming in and who you’re playing with. So flexing in our rotation, I’ll start there. That’s definitely the biggest thing on my mind.”
Davis defended his coach, citing the need for Ham to juggle last year’s team’s absence of starter Jarred Vanderbilt due to left heel bursitis while missing out on a major free-agent acquisition. Also starting to integrate Gabe Vincent after part time. Lower back tightness in preseason.
Plus, no rotation adjustments can help Austin Reeves (1-for-12), who is having one of the worst shooting nights of his career. Or change the result of overtime. The Kings made 3 of 7 three-pointers and the Lakers made 1 of 4 three-pointers, changing the direction of the game.
“I think collectively we’re in a good rhythm,” Davis said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal… it’s going to come. We just have to keep fighting like we did tonight. Obviously, we want to win, but it’s another win tomorrow. Putting it all together , keep working hard and things will turn for us.”
Perhaps adding urgency to Ham’s comments is that he violated the team’s minutes guidelines for James by playing 39 minutes in the loss, the second of back-to-back games at home against Orlando on Monday. night. magic.
“Obviously, I don’t want to put LeBron in trouble,” Ham said. “I don’t want (Davis) to go down prematurely. Obviously, tonight was an overtime game and they competed at a high level, so you want to get them out of there. But keep it balanced.”