25 Nov Lakers plan to contact league about the way LeBron James is…
After trailing by as many as 15 points, the Lakers rallied to beat the Grizzlies on Saturday, 109-108, to improve to a league-best 14-2 on the season. That marks the best start ever for a LeBron James team — besting the Cavs of 2016-17 and 2008-09, along with the 2013-14 Miami Heat, all of which started 13-3.
The Lakers continue to be. They easily could’ve given up on this game, but they haven’t done that even one time this season. They’re out to prove something every single night. This is the fifth time they’ve rallied from a double-digit deficit to win. They’re a league-best 7-1 in “clutch” games, which means the game was within five points inside the final five minutes.
They don’t quit when they’re down.
They finish when it’s close.
LeBron, of course, is the biggest reason for all this. He’s having another MVP season, and against Memphis, he and Anthony Davis simply took over down the stretch. LeBron finished with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists, but there was one number pretty conspicuously missing. ZERO free throw attempts.
You might ask yourself: How in the world could a player like LeBron James, who attacks the rim as hard as anyone in the league and consistently has an advantage on his defender, go an entire game (in which he took 27 shots, no less) without getting even a single shooting whistle? Good question. LeBron and Lakers coach Frank Vogel wondered the same thing.
“It’s frustrating,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “LeBron’s going to the basket all night long. He took nine 3s, but he’s in the paint all night long. … When your guy’s attacking the basket the way he is and getting zero free throw attempts, it’s something that can be frustrating.”
The 27 shots are the most LeBron has ever taken in a game without attempting a free throw, per ESPN Stats and Information. LeBron was noticeably upset with the non-calls throughout the game and went back and forth with officials more than once.
“I’m living in the paint, and if you look at my arm right here, these are four or five [scratches] that happened the last two games, and they weren’t called at all,” James said. “It’s been a theme for me, personally. Pretty much in my career and over the last few years.”
“We’ll deal with the proper channels and talk to the league about that,” Vogel said.
The Lakers indeed plan to discuss the way LeBron is being officiated with the league, per the Los Angeles Times. The Lakers may have a point. LeBron is getting to the line a career-low 5.6 times per game this season, a steep drop from the 7.6 he averaged last season. There has been some talk that this is because LeBron is operating more on the perimeter nowadays, but that’s up for real debate.
LeBron is taking pretty much the same kinds of shots this season as he did last — virtually identical in 3-pointers attempted (5.6 vs. 5.9 last year) and shots attempted overall (19.8 to 19.9 last year). LeBron is taking 47 percent of his shots at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass (right on par with the 48 percent he took the previous two seasons), yet he’s only drawing a foul on 12.3 percent of his shot attempts — down from 15.7 percent last season, and 14.5 percent the year before that, and 17.2 percent the year before that.
All those numbers are far lower than other perimeter-oriented stars like James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Luka Doncic, Paul George, Russell Westbrook. Heck, Kelly Oubre is getting a far higher percentage of whistles than LeBron.
Now listen, don’t get me started on players being OWED foul calls. Too many people look at the box score and think if there is a disparity in free-throw attempts one team got hosed as if there is some unwritten rule that every team and player should have a relatively equal amount of free throws at the end of a game.
You EARN free throws by beating your man. The harder you are to defend, the harder you attack the basket, the more foul calls you are likely to get. There’s a human variance, obviously, but that’s generally how it works. Suffice it to say, LeBron attacks the rim pretty darn hard and consistently puts his defender in bad positions, which is when fouls happen. He wins his matchup more times than not, in other words.
The problem is: LeBron is a giant. When he gets hit, you don’t notice it as much. It’s like a mosquito hitting a brick wall. Officials react to what LOOKS like major contact, but LeBron doesn’t go completely out of his way to dramatize contact the way a lot of players — *cough* James Harden — do every time someone breathes on them.
When a guy like Lou Williams (who is also getting to the line a greater percentage of his shots than LeBron is) gets hit, you see it. Shaquille O’Neal used to have this same gripe. He was so gigantic that guys would be hitting him like a punching bag and would just bounce right off him. Shaq got to the line a lot. He would tell you he should’ve gotten there a whole lot more.
That’s what LeBron and the Lakers are saying. He gets to the line an adequate amount of time, but he should be getting there a lot more. James Harden, for instance, how been to the line 231 times this season, per NBA.com. LeBron has been there 89 times.
Perhaps LeBron should start doing more things like this: